Ian Campbell PhD ‘17, History: Teacher, Rising Tide Charter High School
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
After getting my undergraduate degree, I worked for a few years at a museum in Washington, D.C. There I helped to run an educational program for area students, before deciding to pursue my doctorate in history at Brandeis. In my final year, I did some adjunct teaching at Brandeis and at Brown University and found that though I had enjoyed researching and writing my dissertation, I particularly enjoyed engaging students in intellectual work. I signed up with an educational recruiter, seeking work as a high school history teacher, and a few months later was contacted by a public charter school. The school has been a great fit -- academically rigorous, open-minded, and free of some of the top-down constraints one might encounter in a traditional public school. I am currently in my fourth year teaching high school history.
What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?
At Brandeis, I contacted Sue Levine and met with her for advice about how to pursue a teaching job. David Engerman, the chair of the department at the time, was also generous with his time in offering helpful suggestions for pursuing academic work. He encouraged me both to apply with an educational recruitment company and to pursue volunteer work to help demonstrate that I was serious about teaching high school. Some schools, I learned, may suspect that an applicant with a PhD is merely looking for work only on a temporary basis while pursuing an academic position. To help show my commitment to secondary education, I spent several months tutoring at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School before applying to teaching jobs.
What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?
Graduate students are taught a variety of specialized skills that will help them pursue their research and writing, but instruction in pedagogy is often implicit. As a high school teacher, I have found that identifying material for courses and asking incisive questions of my students come easily, which I attribute to my training at Brandeis. Clear communication and effective writing, too, are products of my time at Brandeis.
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their career exploration or job search?
I have little advice for those pursuing academic careers, for which graduate programs traditionally prepare students. To those interested in careers outside of the academy, however, I would say, first: do not despair. Many institutions will treat an applicant with an advanced degree as a potentially valuable hire. However, it's worth noting that an advanced degree alone is not a ticket to any open position, and few will take academic experience alone as evidence of workplace acumen. Find a way to gain experience, even of the menial kind, in your desired field. As my advisor used to say: "Those who've got shall get." Specifically to those interested in pursuing secondary education, I would strongly suggest seeking out experience (even unpaid) working with younger students, who benefit as much from social and emotional instruction as from purely academic lessons.