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Behind the Academic Curtain: How to Find Success and Happiness with a PhD (Chicago Guides to Academic Life) [Kindle Edition]

Frank F. Furstenberg

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Book Description

More people than ever are going to graduate school to seek a PhD these days. When they get there, they discover a bewildering environment: a rapid immersion in their discipline, a keen competition for resources, and uncertain options for their future, whether inside or outside of academia. Life with a PhD can begin to resemble an unsolvable maze. In Behind the Academic Curtain, Frank F. Furstenberg offers a clear and user-friendly map to this maze. Drawing on decades of experience in academia, he provides a comprehensive, empirically grounded, and, most important of all, practical guide to academic life.

While the greatest anxieties for PhD candidates and postgrads are often centered on getting that tenure-track dream job, each stage of an academic career poses a series of distinctive problems. Furstenberg divides these stages into five chapters that cover the entire trajectory of an academic life, including how to make use of a PhD outside of academia. From finding the right job to earning tenure, from managing teaching loads to conducting research, from working on committees to easing into retirement, he illuminates all the challenges and opportunities an academic can expect to encounter. Each chapter is designed for easy consultation, with copious signposts, helpful suggestions, and a bevy of questions that all academics should ask themselves throughout their career, whether at a major university, junior college, or a nonacademic organization. An honest and up-to-date portrayal of how this life really works, Behind the Academic Curtain is an essential companion for any scholar, at any stage of his or her career.

Product Description


"A lot of academics are going to find in this book just what they need to stimulate their own thinking and assessment of their career, whatever stage they're in. Everyone who has worked in an academic position knows what these problems are, sort of, but a large number of professors and scholars refuse to think about them or to consider, calmly and with some reference to realities, what they should do about them. Behind the Academic Curtain will help them sort out what's important to them. It provides a humane perspective on the insoluble dilemmas that inform a scholarly life." -Howard S. Becker, author of Writing for Social Scientists"

About the Author

Frank F. Furstenberg is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books, most recently Destinies of the Disadvantaged: The Politics of Teenage Childbearing.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 402 KB
  • Print Length: 203 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 022606610X
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (23 Sept. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #829,241 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fluid and to the point 25 Feb. 2014
By I.D. - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This book was recommended to me by a friend within a laundry list of "self-help" type books for graduate students in PhD programs interested in pursuing a career in academia. Given that plenty of blog posts and PDFs abound online from well-established professors outlining specific steps graduate students should take to be successful in our field, I was ex ante doubtful about what more Dr. Furstenberg could add to the process. However, upon picking it up and flipping a few pages, I found myself making time each day to read some more.

The book reads like a nonfiction novella; while the content is certainly nonfictional and instructional, Dr. Furstenberg's writing voice is conversational and unimposing: it reads as if you had just knocked on his office door and asked him a few basic questions, leaving with more insight, anecdotes, and personal stories than you could ever anticipate asking in the first place!

While there are certainly other books available covering these subjects (with the exception of, perhaps, his section on how to and when to retire from academia, and what to do once retired), Dr. Furstenberg offers two themes that persist throughout the book:
1.) anticipatory socialization---he gives the reader wise hints and roadmaps for traversing unknown territory, which is quite frankly helpful for imagining how to deal with potentially awkward or stressful scenarios and
2.) validation---he validates and speaks a lot to feelings of negativity, anger, and resentment that can build up over time for various reasons at all stages of an academic's career, and gives concrete advice on how to recognize when one has these feelings and subsequently some options to take once these feelings are acknowledged.

For those two points above alone, the book warrants 5 stars. At 171 pages, the book is an easy read and does not leave more to be desired (though, it sometimes makes you curious about who the real identities are behind some of the vignettes!).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wise and Sensible Book 5 Jan. 2014
By Los Angeles Professor - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Furstenberg provides wise and sensible advice, drawing from a lifetime career at U of Penn in Sociology, for all scholars in all fields, from PhD to retirement. I found his thoughts on the last phase of a career, the "endgame," and retirement to be thoughtful and quite prudent. Throughout, his suggestions and guidance are right on. I suspect that those in laboratory sciences or mathematics or theoretical science fields are in a slightly different position, at least as graduate students. There are a number of guidebooks for budding natural scientists that may be good supplements.

If you listen to his advice, you will be better off. If you are studying higher education, again and again he points to lacunae in the research literature, and that may well suggest vital research topics.

I am a professor and I recently published a book with some of the goals of "Behind the Academic Curtain" (mine is "The Scholar's Survival Manual," Indiana U Press). So I bought the book and read it with my own work in mind as well as all the other books I have seen that advise scholars. My book is a complement to his, meant more as monitory guidance, for when you hear Furstenberg's advice and then do not really listen. I spend more time on pathologies and misdirections. In general, what is most tragic about scholarly life (and this is of course much more general) is that most people know more or less what they ought do but believe they might do something else and succeed--and so they get hit by the proverbial truck. On the other hand, Furstenberg's and my books, both give away the secret handshakes and tacit premises of the scholarly life.

It's wonderful to see the different tone of each book. But in practical terms they say the same thing.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful and a MUST for anyone considering an academic career and/or PhD 24 Nov. 2014
By Mr Mike - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I found this book very insightful and easy to read. I think there's too many PhD's and grad students, or even dropouts who end up complaining and suffering, wasting a lot of time and money, because they did not really know what it would be like pursuing their advanced degrees, as well as what life would be like in the academic world. The author writes in a very subjective and candid manner and shares quite personal stories (even referring to specific people whom he did not get along with), not glorifying his life in any way, and in some ways describing many of the difficulties.

I would have liked a little more research and sharing of others' experience outside of the author's alone, and possibly some additional advice for people who are considering a PhD, but overall, it was very useful reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a great overview of an academic career from its very beginning ... 12 Nov. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is a great overview of an academic career from its very beginning till the end. Lots of tips on how to start, go on, and survive. A must for everyone who's considering going to grad school, as well as those who have already decided to follow this path.
5.0 out of 5 stars NIFTY! 31 May 2014
By skr - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this great book for my daughters who has read everything! She thought this was the BEST and so thankful we sent it. From all the parts I read , I agreed.
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