Weeks After Dissertation Defense, an Alum Joins the Tenure Track at Syracuse
A new graduate who spent the last year applying for positions while writing her dissertation shares her advice about the academic job market.
Cristina E. Pardo Porto (Ph.D. ’22, Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) defended her dissertation in August, just a few weeks before moving north to Syracuse University, where she is now an assistant professor of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. Pardo Porto’s research focuses on contemporary photography, particularly experimental Latin American photographers whose work reflects on race, gender, and immigration.
During her time at the Graduate Center, Pardo Porto was a fellow at the Teaching and Learning Center and won a 2022 Excellence in Teaching Award for her teaching at Hunter, Lehman, and Queens Colleges. Pardo Porto went on the academic job market last year while writing her dissertation. She recently spoke to the Graduate Center about her experience from her new office.
The Graduate Center: What advice do you have for current students who are preparing to go on the academic job market?
Pardo Porto: The first thing I would say is to understand the institution you’re applying to, and try to see yourself there, and show that in your application materials. In your cover letter, you should highlight what you would bring to that institution in relation to what they have now. What are your skills, and how do you fit within their culture? What would be your role in that institution? And the same with the department — if they have a journal or a series of colloquia, how would you add to those projects?
Also, look for advice from people who are currently on the job market. Not professors who were on the market 20 years ago, but people who are right now doing what you’re about to do, because the market is changing, it’s very different from the way it was.
And start with enough time ahead to prepare your materials. I started in August and my first interview was in November. I would have liked to have known that it was going to take a toll, because it’s very challenging. There’s a lot of anxiety. You’re going to receive rejections. There are interviews that are not going to work out, and they can come one after another. But it’s great practice.
Surround yourself with your friends, colleagues, all the people who are there for you. And take breaks! Sometimes I saw myself writing letters every day of the week. Every day I was applying to a different job.
GC: How many applications did you send out?
Pardo Porto: About 70 or 80, and I had about 15 first-round interviews. And then four invitations to campus. And I’ve heard those are really good numbers.
All disciplines are different. My field, Spanish, is especially tough now. But my research is very interdisciplinary and transnational, and I think that helped — that it’s very open.
GC: What did you highlight in your materials that made you stand out as a candidate?
Pardo Porto: I think I stood out because my profile is very balanced in research, teaching, and service. We are told as students that research is the most important thing, but I feel that teaching and service are also very important.
At CUNY, we get so much experience teaching. But I also participated in student leadership through my work for student conferences. I was on the organizing committee for three years for my department’s annual students’ conference. I was part of the intellectual life of the Graduate Center, and I feel that experience is very unique to CUNY.
GC: Did your fellowship with the Teaching and Learning Center help develop your skills?
Pardo Porto: Yes, because at the Teaching and Learning Center we had very timely conversations on critical pedagogies, antiracist approaches to pedagogy. Those are topics that we don’t often get to speak about inside academia. So I brought all of that knowledge to my teaching demos and to my interviews.
And the Office for Career Planning helped me edit my CV and my cover letters. They do a great job with their tutorials for writing. My adviser, Magdalena Perkowska, was also very supportive of my work. She was really there when I needed her, and her mentorship was really important to my process.
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