Recovering Academic

September 4th, 2009

When Elrena and I first began talking about Mama, PhD, we quickly developed a wish list of contributors, and Jennifer Margulis’ name was on both our lists. We knew she had a PhD; we knew she had a thriving freelance writing and editing career. We didn’t know how she got from one to the other. Her essay, which describes how she falls off the wagon of a life in academia, gives our third section its title: Recovering Academic.

She writes in her essay of weighing her job options:

I thought of a brilliant colleague who moved to Nevada for a tenure track position, and was miserable. And another who worked at a big research university in the middle of Ohio who was also struggling to find her way. I thought of a professor at Emory who never wanted to be in Atlanta, who hadn’t bought a house or an apartment because she felt like her time there was just temporary. Ten years later, tenured, she was still in Atlanta. Instead of living her life, she was waiting to leave. She hadn’t married or had children. My husband, James, and I talked about our options for hours: we decided that we weren’t willing to move somewhere we didn’t want to live just for a job. We made the decision that we would make over and over again: our family, our children, and our quality of life all came ahead of academic success. It was a decision that would soon catapult me out of academia and into a more flexible, child-friendly, and risky career.

Today, Jennifer and her family are thriving. She reports:
“Since spending a year teaching on a Fulbright fellowship–as described in Mama, Ph.D.–I have been completely on the wagon and making a living by writing and editing full-time. I’ve co-authored a book with my husband, The Baby Bonding Book for Dads (visit the book’s blog), which we were working on during our time in West Africa, and I have published articles in a wide variety of major magazines and newspapers since my return. Recent articles include a profile of a Salt Lake City entrepreneur who stared a no-menu no-prices restaurant for More magazine, a 6,000-word piece on the debate about vaccines for Mothering magazine, and a cover story for the November issue of Smithsonian magazine about Niger’s last herd of West African giraffes. I was also profiled in that issue by Smithsonian’s editor-in-chief, Carey Winfrey, and the article, “Looking Up,” was selected for inclusion in BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE WRITING 2009. I’ve also been doing a lot of traveling and travel writing, for both the Oregonian and for Disney’s, and I have recently been on assignment at Crater Lake and in Paris, London, the Big Island, and Kauai. Get links to recent articles, media appearances, and events at my website. Finally, I am expecting my fourth child this November.”

Jennifer’s essay offers an excellent example of a viable out of academia, and she continues to advise writers on developing a freelance career, so visit her website for more information.

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