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September 23, 2007


No, I have not joined the National Rifle Association. This is my third season applying for academic jobs, but (except for the summer job at CTY) my first really serious effort.

Until this summer, I had minimal teaching experience and (most devestatingly) no Ph.D. I now have a Ph.D., the prestige of having worked over the summer for a Johns Hopkins University program, good teaching evaluations and a strong reference letter from that program, and (as of last week) a strong reference letter from my current department head at Washburn. At the instigation of Jennie Sutton, the CTY academic dean who lives in England and wanted to write just one letter and send it to "your dossier service," I found out what a dossier service does -- and signed up with a good one, Interfolio.

Using a dossier service greatly simplifies the academic job search process and does so at minimal extra cost. The candidate uploads standard documents (CV, teaching philosphy, syllabi, etc.) and individual cover letters to Interfolio's website. References upload or mail their confidential letters, which the candidate does not see but which are added to the candidate's file. Then, for each application, the candidate simply checks off which documents to send, and Interfolio mails them the next day. As a bonus, they include (with copies of transcripts) a note stating that although they are not sending an "official" transcript, they themselves received one. This saves the applicant an $8-12 transcript fee on 30-40 percent of applications. Interfolio charges $30 for two years of service ($45 but with $15 credit toward deliveries), plus $5 for each delivery up to 20 pages and $1 for each additional 20 pages.

I have sent 26 applications so far, with 16 more waiting for additional reference letters or other events. I am applying at the big and prestigious (Stanford, Princeton) and the small and relatively obscure (Lawrence Technological University in Detroit, Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana). My initial criterion, other than a specialization fit, is "anything south of Fargo." That sounds funny, but it is true. The only position for which I am qualified but am not applying is in Duluth. Neither Terry nor I are ready to endure 30 F below zero temperatures every winter. And if I hadn't already made that decision, I surely would have after going to Sioux City a few weeks ago for friend Chris Jensen's 60th birthday party and hearing his brother-in-law talk about having worn a winter coat in July in Duluth. Brrrrr.

While I am hopeful of getting hired for a tenure-track teaching job, there is no guarantee. I am beginning to think about possible "Plan B's." The best candidate so far is to teach at a private high school in Kansas City.

-- Norty

Back to China!

I was delighted, for several reasons, to have an opportunity to return to China during the summer of 2007.

Johns Hopkins University has a 30-year-old program called Center for Talented Youth (CTY). This year was their first year of expansion to Mexico and China. I was fortunate to be hired to create and teach a course in China-US Relations in Nanjing. We used the newly expanded campus of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, with which I was already quite familiar from having studied the Center for my doctoral dissertation. When the Center added a master's program for the 2006-07 year, they also built a new building that includes luxury apartments for foreign faculty. That is where I stayed from June 27 through July 21. I had a friendly roommate named Grant Haight. The best things about the teaching job were: experience designing a course from scratch; the enjoyment of teaching highly motivated students (though high schoolers, I taught them on a college level); getting good teaching evaluations; getting a strong letter of recommendation from the academic dean.

When one travels all the way to China -- especially if one has connections there -- it is natrual to fit in other activities. By arriving in Nanjing several days early, I was able to spend time touring the city with my nephew Richard and his girlfriend (a Filippino singer named Shugar). I also saw: former work colleagues from Harlan Global Mfg., including friend and former boss Jim Kaplan who was in town; Xiao-huang Yin, a friend and member of my dissertation committtee, who passed through on a visit from Los Angeles; Ningping Yu, friend who was in from Vancouver to visit family; Dan Becker, a friend from the Chabad synagogue in Shanghai; and my good friend Liu Sheng and his family. His daughter Tianning (Jenny) was a guest in my class one day and made quite a hit talking about her recent visit to the United States and her life as a Chinese high school student. Besides seeing friends and relatives, another reason for arriving early was the chance to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Hopkins-Nanjjing Center. That gala event was fun. I renewed old acquaintences and made new ones. I even made eye contact (from 10 feet away) with guest speaker Henry Kissinger.

After the CTY session, I took a bus to Nantong and spent four and a half days visiting friends Terry and I made while we were living there. Nantong still feels like my "second home." I stayed most of the time with Liu Sheng, who commutes from Nanjing to manage Harlan's factory in Nantong during the week. I spent a lot of time with Tao Hong and Liu Zheng and their cute new baby, Tangtang, and with Dr. Wang and Dr. Chen and their daughter, Tingting. I also saw several of my other former work colleagues (who took me to the city's new park and to two dinners), a few neighbors, Terry's masseuse, one of Terry's former teaching colleagues, and our friends Zhang Zongming and Zhou Ling.

-- Norty