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WVU Alum, Bryce Berkowitz, Talks With Current MFAs on Searching for an Academic Job

Bryce Berkowitz, a WVU MFA alum, sat down with current MFAs to discuss the ins and outs of searching for an academic job. 

“Once I began being unapologetically myself I started getting better interviews.”

Berkowitz, who is currently teaching at Butler University, shared many insights about his personal experience with the academic job market and interviewing process. 

 

For Berkowitz, many of what he learned came from trial and error. When in his last year here at WVU, Berkowitz applied to 100+ jobs. From those jobs, he secured 8 interviews. He openly admitted to “bombing” the first three interviews because, “I didn’t know what I was doing.” 

 

However, sitting in on poet and professor Jenny Johnson’s hiring process proved to be a game changer for him. After which, he had a better idea of what potential committees were looking for and took the time to revamp his materials. After that, Berkowitz found himself with 5 more interviews.

 

Berkowitz discussed his first teaching position out of the MFA; an instructor position with a renewable contract teaching technical writing at Montana Technological University. His experience teaching technical writing at WVU during his MFA helped Berkowitz discover his passion for professional writing, thus making it easy for him to speak to that experience in his interview with Montana Technological University. 


For Berkowitz, one of the main reasons he really enjoys teaching professional writing is that “I find it easier to pinpoint right answers in professional writing.” 


Since Montana Technological University has such a high enrollment in STEM majors, Berkowitz also discovered his joy for working with STEM majors. “I like how their minds work,” said Berkowitz. 


After teaching at Montana, Berkowitz secured an instructor position at Butler University. But before making the switch, continuing his academic job search, Berkowitz applied what he learned through the years and applied to fewer positions and found himself becoming more selective with where he applied. 


Berkowitz is still teaching professional writing. Teaching courses such as Intro to Professional Writing, Writing in the Entertainment Industry, Writing Creatively in the Workplace, First Year Seminar: Arts Based Social Justice, and First Year Seminar: The Writer’s Life (a course where students learn about writing things that they can get paid for). Last summer, he taught The Art of Poetry.

Bryce Berkowitz

Berkowitz took the time to provide current MFAs with his secrets to success, having first acknowledged that overall, he feels really lucky. 


There are however, still some things that he's learned to do which have helped in his search for an academic job. 


“Wear comfortable shoes,” said Berkowitz. “I believe Nancy Caronia gave me that piece of advice and she was right.” And when it comes to the actual interview, “Don't be afraid to show up with notes to an on-campus interview or have notes for a Zoom interview. I tape them to the wall above my laptop.”


Another piece of advice Berkowitz shared, was that even if universities are asking vague questions, “Give a highly specific answer. You want to drop them into the room of one of your classes. The more vivid it could be the more experiential it will be for them.”


When it comes to preparing teaching and interviewing materials, such as a CV, Berkowitz advised students to be more personal. “They want to know you beyond your application or work. Be yourself in your cover letter is what I’m saying. Speak to your diversity of experience.”


And when it comes to students’ time here at WVU, Berkowitz offered this final piece of advice: “Take your teaching very seriously. It’s not just about your writing... I learned a lot more by investing in being a good teacher.” 


Students can find ways to invest in their teaching here at WVU by taking advantage of on-campus opportunities and documenting them on their CVs. Some examples Berkowitz listed were, “professional development, outreach, readings, coordinating positions, evaluations, illuminating office hours or class moments, and emails from students that say positive things.”


Thank you Bryce for taking the time to sit down with students and share your wisdom. 



Bryce’s Recommended reading: 


Book and After The Book Deal by Courtney Maum and The Professor is In by Karen Kelsky. 


The op-eds on Inside Higher Ed. Specifically “The Seizure That Made Me a College Professor” by Jake Maynard (fellow WVU alum from ‘18). 


For more on Bryce Berkowitz, check out his website at bryceberkowitz.com and keep your eye out for his forthcoming book of poems Bermuda Ferris Wheel in 2021. 




Bryce Berkowitz's first book of poems, Bermuda Ferris Wheel, was selected by David Dodd Lee as the winner of the 42 Miles Press | Indiana U. Poetry Award (forthcoming 2021). His poems have been selected for national and regional anthologies, including Best New Poets (2017), New Poetry from the Midwest (2019), as well as the Illinois Emerging Writers | Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award (2017). His fiction recently won the Big Muddy | Southeastern Missouri State U. Short Story Competition (2020). He received his MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University.


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