I had the pleasure of sitting down with Timothy Conrad, who is both a writer and professor at Michigan State University. His current position as a teacher has required many years of hard work and self-discovery and I was lucky enough to be privy to his story of how he made his way into both the publishing and academic fields.
Which universities did you attend and for how long were you there?
I attended a smaller university for four years, earned my MFA from North Carolina Wilmington after three years, and got my Ph.D. after five years at Western Michigan University.
What made you want to become an English professor?
I am an avid lover of writing and books. I also genuinely enjoy teaching my students and having conversations with them about the class readings and their own writing, as well.
When you were in college, is this the career you aimed to have? If not, how did you come about it?
I originally aimed to become a high school teacher. In fact, I was majoring in secondary education before I bailed because I couldn’t see myself teaching high school students. After that, I spent some time studying abroad and eventually came to the role of a college professor.
Have you published any works? If so, how did you go about that?
I write mostly short stories, some non-fiction, which I tried to have published for a long time. I would send them into literary magazines and anywhere accepting unsolicited submissions. It took time, but eventually, I was published in one magazine, and then another and another.
What is your current job title and what are the responsibilities associated with it?
My official job title is an assistant professor, henry level, limited-term contingent faculty on a 2-year contract, fixed term. As a professor, I spend most of my time teaching in the classroom, talking with my students during class and office hours, and looking at their work.
What is something you have to keep in mind while teaching?
My students are all over the place regarding taste and experience. Creative writing is so experimental and active that they are all coming from different places, and I have to remember that. I also try to be student-centered.
What are the biggest challenges in your current position or the journey to it?
The academic job market is brutal and very competitive. This can be seen by how many get their academic degree and how many actually end up with jobs in that field. It requires contingent work and a lot of paying your dues. It also focuses on doing everything you can to keep your foot in the door.
Is there any advice you would give to someone looking to work in this field?
Figure out early on how to have something going independently, or outside of education. Reading and writing practices driven by your own passions that are separate from the credentials can really help you stand out.