By Elizabeth Labiner
After earning her PhD in 2016, Hannah Tierney applied for roughly 50 academic jobs before ultimately receiving a job offer on the other side of the world. “I did a Skype interview with the University of Sydney in December and was given a job offer a few hours after I finished the interview,” she recalls. “It felt (and still feels) like a miracle. Moving to Australia to pursue a career in philosophy was a big decision, but I’m so glad I made it.”
Like many academic jobs, Tierney says, her position involves a mix of research, teaching, and service commitments. Because it’s her first year, she has a reduced teaching load and has yet to be put on any committees. “I spend my days doing research and teaching-related tasks (preparing for class, lecturing, marking, and so on), getting to know my wonderful colleagues and their work... and trying to understand everyone’s accents!” she laughs.
While Tierney says she wishes she had known that the Australian higher education system is slightly different from the U.S. system in all sorts of ways, and that it would have been useful to know about some of those differences prior to starting her job in Australia, she feels that the philosophy program at the U of A prepared her very well for the job market and her career:
I received (and continue to receive) an unbelievable amount of support from the philosophy department at UA. My advisor Shaun Nichols and the other members of my committee, have read (many) drafts of my writing samples and research papers, even after I graduated. Connie Rosati, who is the philosophy department’s placement director, continually goes above and beyond in helping the department’s job candidates. Connie reads and edits our job materials, often several times. She also organizes practice Skype interviews and job talks for candidates and has even traveled to the annual conference where first-round interviews have historically been conducted. Finally, Sandra Kimball, who is the senior program coordinator for the philosophy department, plays an essential role in all of the department’s job seekers’ lives. Each year, Sandra completes the Herculean task of compiling job candidates’ letters of recommendation and sending them to the institutions to which they’re applying for jobs. Getting a job in philosophy is incredibly difficult, but the philosophy department at UA makes candidates feel as prepared and supported as possible.
In addition, Tierney continues, her colleagues and mentors at the U of A demonstrated passion and drive for the profession:
Beyond providing me an excellent education, the members of the philosophy department at UA modelled how to be great philosophers, teachers, and colleagues. I try to pursue my research questions with the same kind of passion and focus that my professors at UA demonstrated in the pursuit of their own projects. When I prepare lectures, I often think back to the excellent lectures and classes I attended at UA. And I value collegiality and collaboration in part because I saw how much the philosophy department at UA benefited from these very qualities.
Now, Tierney is embodying those same ideals at the University of Sydney as she looks ahead to her long-term goals -- research, publication, and eventually tenure -- in academia.