Alt-Ac: HASTAC 2011 considers careers in the academy that don’t entail the tenure track

I had a very affirming moment, the evening of December 1, at the HASTAC pre-conference workshop in Ann Arbor.  I learned that my personal career trajectory, which has led me to my present position as the Director of Instructional Technology at the CSLS at Vanderbilt University, has a name:  Alt-Ac.

Alternative Academic Careers are those in which you stay in the Academy, but you are not involved in the “traditional” tenure-track.  Many of these positions are in IT, publishing, and in libraries.  A good number of them have to do with technology, the Digital Humanities, or at least have a component of these disciplines built into them.  Other Alt-Ac careers have no tech basis whatsoever.

In the pre-conference workshop, we met a variety of very interesting people who are presently involved in Alt-ac tracks.  They discussed how they got their jobs, what these jobs meant to them, and where they feel that Alt-ac jobs will lead them in the future.  We looked at some Alt-ac job ads, critiqued some cover letters, and even discussed strategies for a job search.

Alt-Ac is an interesting route to take.  People who are on it are there for a variety of different reasons, so it’s quite dangerous to make any assumptions regarding any of us “Alt-accies.”  I personally feel that most of us are incredibly intelligent and creative people, who are a bit “different,” and we all have some sense that we don’t want to be doing something “traditional.”

The HASTAC organization is going to start an initiative to consider, in depth, the Alt-Ac career route.  Keep in touch with developments in this area at their website.

Todd Hughes

  • Holly Tucker

    Really enjoyed the U of MI HASTAC trip with you and Cory!