Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ivy League Schools vs State Schools

When we finally graduate from our doctoral programs, we often dream about landing a job with a well-known, prestigious school, hopefully an Ivy League university. But is the fame of an Ivy League school worth it?

In recent years, I have studied and worked at two Ivy League universities. This year the economic crisis destroyed 60% of job openings in my field. As a result, I accepted a position at a younger, far less prestigious state school. To be completely honest, I wasn't very happy about this job. It was very enjoyable to work at a place whose name is instantly recognized and respected by everyone. But then I started thinking whether there was anything other than prestige that my Ivy League employers gave me. Sure, such schools have more money, but since I work in the Humanities, I never had any access to those funds. Of course, the students are very well-prepared and dedicated but their background is hardly diverse, which makes for pretty limited class discussions.

At this point, I'm starting to see the advantages that a less "prestigious" state school has to offer to a young academic. I haven't even started to work at my new university but I already feel more appreciated than I ever did after years at my previous jobs. My new colleagues really care whether I will be able to find a nice place to live. Several of them offered that I live at their places while I'm looking for an apartment. Others suggested that they go look at houses to rent since I'm far away.

At the same time, there is a lot more interest in and appreciation for my research on the part of the administration. When two of my articles were accepted for publication this month, the Dean's office congratulated me and decided to include them in an exhibition of articles published by the faculty and graduate students. When you feel appreciated and I would even say celebrated by your new school, you feel so much more motivated to do a lot in return. I wish more prominent schools realized that and invested at least some efffort into encouraging their young faculty members.

1 comment:

Tom Carter said...

I'm a product of a small private college at the undergraduate level and two state schools (Oklahoma and Maryland) at graduate levels. I can't compare them to the Ivy League because I was never there, but there are some distinct advantages to having faculty who are less than world-famous and who will actually deign to teach classes, especially with undergraduates. Although I have to admit that there were some heavy hitters in Government and Politics at Maryland, I think they were still more involved than well-known full professors in the Ivy League. I know that's mostly a data-free observation, but it tracks with what I've heard and read.