Five Colleges and you

It was a good meeting this past Thursday. Professor Neal Abraham, Executive Director of Five Colleges, Inc., met with Hidden Scholars to discuss resources and networking opportunities for independent scholars. Many thanks to him for his time and support. He is enthusiastic about independents, both as individuals and as members of this group. Individually, we have much to add to the intellectual conversations in our fields and across disciplines. As a group, we support many of the same goals as the Five Colleges consortium – networking, research, writing, and collegial engagement.

We all know about Five Colleges, Inc., as a consortium: the umbrella under which the colleges share courses, programs, technology, and many other resources. But its larger purpose is to be a vehicle of intellectual engagement in the Valley. Beyond the colleges, the consortium reaches out to the wider community through initiatives like Museums10 and the Five College Schools Project (see below for more). It’s also in conversation with colleges in Springfield and Holyoke – in a way revisiting an earlier stage of its history as a larger regional group. (In earlier years, the consortium initiated the development of Holyoke Community College and Hampshire College, as well as regional public radio and television, workers’ education, and more.)

The consortium has a lot to offer to independent scholars. First and foremost is the Five College Associates program. Two features of this program are especially important – institutional affiliation and library access. Associates have a formal institutional affiliation through the consortium, rather than through any one college – so when you apply for a grant, attend a conference, or send out your resume, you do so as part of a recognized institution rather than solo. This is a real need for many of us. And Five College Associates have faculty-level access to all five libraries – borrowing privileges, interlibrary loan, and (we hope) remote access to databases, when some technical and security issues can be resolved.  Another very real set of needs.

In addition, Associates are paid well for adjunct work at the undergraduate colleges (UMass uses a different pay scale, so comparisons are difficult).

The Associates program was originally intended for faculty spouses with academic credentials, but it will soon be broadening its scope to include a wider range of unaffiliated scholars. Watch the Five Colleges website for updates. And be aware that associate status requires application and recommendation.

Other good resources and creative opportunities

The Five College Women’s Studies Research Center offers semester-and year-long Research Associate positions to scholars from all over the world. Though unpaid, they offer benefits such as library privileges, office space, and other institutional supports like e-mail and tech support – as well as seminars, discussions, and opportunities for public presentation. A fellowship can be a good launching platform for additional grants or teaching positions.

The Community-Based Learning program integrates students with community organizations through internships and other learning experiences.

The Five College Center for East Asian Studies works with colleges and K-12 schools on teaching and research, offering workshops, seminars, and resources online and in hard copy.

We are exploring connections with Five College Learning in Retirement as a teaching opportunity and model program. Watch this space!

(You can find more information about these programs at

For job seekers

The Academic Career Network is an online map with links to jobs listings and to home pages of educational institutions in New England and upstate New York. (Note: the job links are not always updated; you might have better luck choosing the link to the home page and going from there. But it’s a good centralized listing of institutions in the region.) You’ll find it on the Five Colleges website.

Hampshire College sometimes needs outside scholars to supervise students’ senior independent projects, if there is no appropriate specialist on the Hampshire faculty. Often these projects are interdisciplinary. Check with colleagues or with the appropriate school at Hampshire.

Other networking opportunities

Departments in your field. Some academic departments are able to offer “visiting scholar” status to colleagues who are known in the field, or with whom they have strong connections.

Faculty colloquia in various subject areas. Most are flexible about participation, but check with the contact person (listed on the website) to see whether they have room for you.

Departmental events: lectures, presentations, guest speakers, and so forth. A good way to meet people and share intellectual interests. Check the Five College calendar.

All of these are ways to engage with the larger academic community, and with communities of learning outside of academe, whether we are looking for jobs, intellectual exchange, or collegial support. Although we are Hidden (to a greater or lesser degree), there are many of us, and we are resource people, not just outsiders. I hope that Thursday’s discussion will suggest some ways in.

Guest speaker today!

Neal Abraham, executive director of Five Colleges, Inc., meets with Hidden Scholars this afternoon to discuss resources and networking opportunities for independent scholars in the region.  Join us!

5:00 p.m., Amherst Room, Jones Library. (Light refreshments provided; bring your own coffee.)


Discussions about alternative careers are cropping up all over the place.  Two of them crossed my desk recently.

The New England and Maritimes Region of the American Academy of Religion is offering a workshop on alternative academic careers.  I don’t know whether it’s open to non-members, but you could check it out, or find out whether the provider is doing another one that’s more accessible.

I like the imaginative ways the provider describes herself – as an “adjunctpreneur” and an “academic mercenary.”  Not so different from us academic ronin, perhaps. She blogs at (see the “Wider Conversation” sidebar).  Read on for the workshop description.

Meanwhile, the Scholarly Communication Institute at the University of Virginia is just finishing a survey of scholars in alternate academic careers – library work, academic administration, publishing, and the like.  The survey focuses on work in the humanities and social sciences.  It will be interesting to see what they generate.  They run a very interesting website about the “alt-ac” world, and they are compiling a database of people in alt-ac careers.  You’ll find a couple of links in the “Wider Conversation” sidebar.  Below is a description of the survey, FYI.

The workshop:

Envisioning Alternative Academic Careers
Amy Hale, Ph.D.

Monday, October 8, 2012, 10:00am-1:00 pm
Sunday, October 7, 2012, 1:00-4:00pm **FULL**
Boston University
Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, Room 201
147 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215

How do we sustain ourselves as scholars when most academic jobs are casual and part-time? In 2005, adjuncts made up 57% of the faculty at Harvard and 70% at Boston University. The shift away from tenure-track positions has only continued, creating new financial, social, and emotional challenges for those who entered academia hoping for professorships. This new academic job market demands a creative, entrepreneurial approach to making a living – as well as the willingness to collaborate in maintaining the academy’s mission to serve the public.

This three-hour workshop is designed to help academics in the Humanities and Social Sciences to approach academic work as only one part of a wider picture that potentially integrates a variety of income streams.  Participants will examine their own history and relationships to academia, and become more empowered through discovering marketable skill sets they may not know they possess. We will strategically build sustainable life strategies, considering what activities and relationships bring us real joy and can therefore be maintained in the long term. Finally, we will discuss what scholars can do as a group to support meaningful liberal arts education in a time of economic crisis.

Participants will have the opportunity to:

Reframe the issue of work/life balance in the context of an academic career
Describe their abilities in terms of generalizable skill sets
Consider the role of online teaching in twenty-first-century education
Explore the personal and professional benefits of collaboration
Begin to build a broad-based network that supports scholars individually, while also furthering sustainable alternative and traditional environments for scholarship

Amy Hale has been working as an “adjunctpreneur” for a decade and has built a successful career through combining online teaching in the Humanities, course design, consulting and research. She makes her home in Oakland, CA, where she also enjoys singing barbershop, lifting weights, gardening, dancing, writing and enjoying the company of her husband and two cats.

About the survey (from SCI):

The Scholarly Communication Institute is conducting a survey to analyze alternative academic employment data — a career category now commonly called “alt-ac” — and add to the scanty statistics available for nonprofessorial job placement in general.  The data seeks to address the concerns of two main constituencies: professors and program administrators on one hand, and graduate students themselves on the other. The surveys are limited to the humanities and social sciences.  The Institute is seeking data in three different ways:

Surveying former graduate students who have (or are building) careers outside the professoriate
Surveying employers who have hired a former graduate student into an alt-ac position
Seeking contributions to an alt-ac database called “Who We Are,” in which people list their names, employers, and job titles.

The surveys close on October 1.