José R. Chávarry, LAILAC Alum, Shares Advice on Getting a Tenure-Track Faculty Position

José R. Chávarry (Photo courtesy of Chávarry)

José R. Chávarry (Ph.D. ’19, Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) is about to start a position this fall at the College of Charleston as an assistant professor of Hispanic Studies. Chávarry, who was previously a visiting assistant professor of Spanish at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recently shared his advice for getting a tenure-track position:
 
The Graduate Center: What do you think helped you stand out when applying for this tenure-track position?
 
Chávarry: I think it was all about the fit with the Hispanic Studies department and the college. I was lucky that the job description was specific and matched my own areas of interest and research: Andean and Southern Cone literature and culture. But I think fit goes beyond this: The College of Charleston is a public liberal arts institution, and since I graduated from and taught extensively at both small private colleges and a large public university like CUNY, I was able to draw on my experiences during the interview process.
 
Also, I went directly from my B.A. to the Ph.D. program. I had much to catch up on in terms of theoretical background, but my professors in LAILAC guided me throughout, and the sense of community in the department gave me a feeling of belonging while simultaneously pushing me to develop my critical thinking abilities. This formation helped me during the interview process, since I was able to demonstrate I was conversant in the current theoretical and methodological discussions in my field.
 
Finally, I think a big advantage was the pedagogical and mentorship experience I developed at CUNY, both by teaching different introductory and advanced-level courses, and as a student mentor in the CUNY Pipeline Program, which helps CUNY undergraduates apply to doctoral programs. My constant contact with students was a big plus for getting my current position [at Franklin & Marshall] in a teaching-oriented college. 
 
GC: Did the fellowships you received while at the GC help you in ways that went beyond funding?
 
Chávarry: In addition to smaller travel grants and a dissertation fellowship, in 2016, I received the Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council. With this funding, I traveled to the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, which houses one of the world’s largest libraries for Latin American studies. I was starting my dissertation project at this point, so it was crucial for me to access the periodicals and cultural publications that defined 1960s and 1970s Peru, my area of research. The SSRC also organized workshops with the other fellows from across different fields and doctoral programs in the country. Here, I learned how to communicate my research with scholars from other areas of study, which I think was also helpful when writing my job application materials. 
 
GC: Your thesis was on artistic solidarity in Peru. What drew you to that subject?
 
Chávarry: I didn’t come into the Ph.D. program with a specific project in mind, but rather with a general area of interest regarding the role of literature and intellectuals during periods of political upheaval, particularly during the Latin American Cold War. After taking courses and examinations, and through productive conversations with faculty and colleagues, I narrowed my approach to Peru, my home country, and particularly to the 1960s and 1970s. While the role of art during and after the Peruvian civil war (1980–2000) has received a lot of critical attention, the years prior, characterized by a “revolutionary” military dictatorship and the emergence of broad labor coalitions, are much less accounted for from a perspective of cultural history. In my dissertation, I examined how a broad field of intellectuals and artists engaged with their political context, and how they enacted discourses and practices of solidarity with marginalized and mobilizing populations.  
 
GC: Do you have any advice for current students who plan to look for tenure-track positions?
 
Chávarry: I have two pieces of advice. First, spend time reflecting about your own scholarly identity, and how your research, teaching, and service match with your larger personal and professional goals. That is, consider what you have to offer and what will help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants. 
 
Second, think about your fit within the program and institution you are applying to, and make that evident in your documents and during the interview process. While time consuming, it really makes a difference to get to know the profile of the school and the needs of the department, and to think about how your scholarly identity matches what they are looking for. While the fit may be evident to you, it won’t necessarily be so for your interviewers; therefore, you should find ways of letting them know you understand their culture and why you think your experience and skills would be a good addition to the program and institution.  

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing.

Submitted on: JUL 1, 2021

Category: Alumni News | Diversity | GCstories | General GC News | Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures | Voices of the GC