Political science Ph.D.s land academic jobs after year in new 5+1 Fellowship Program

February 07, 2017College of Arts and Letters

Andre Audette
Andre Audette

Kathryn Boehlefeld
Kathryn Boehlefeld

Department of Political Science Ph.D.s Andre Audette and Kathryn Boehlefeld are among the first recipients of Notre Dame’s new 5+1 Postdoctoral Fellowship—and the program has already helped them advance their research and land academic job offers.

Launched in fall 2016 by Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters and funded in part by a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program is designed to incentivize students to complete their dissertations within five years. Those who do so are guaranteed a fully funded, one-year postdoctoral fellowship, allowing them to prepare for the job market by continuing their research, expanding their teaching portfolio, or exploring new career opportunities.

Audette—who spent his fellowship year revising his dissertation for publication, teaching a class, and developing a new project with a faculty member—will join the political science faculty at Monmouth College this fall. Boehlefeld, whose fellowship involved completing a special project for the Notre Dame International Security Center, will be a visiting professor teaching political science and international relations at Valparaiso University.

Andre Audette

How did your fellowship year prepare you for the academic job market?

My fellowship year gave me the opportunity to continue developing my teaching and research experiences that are necessary to be successful on the academic job market. I had the chance to teach an independent course and publish two more papers, both of which are the first things that potential employers look for in a potential job candidate.

Additionally, with political science jobs in relatively scarce supply and with more of them being offered to candidates with their Ph.D.s in hand, being able to go on the market with all of my degree requirements completed seemed to make me more competitive as a job candidate. The combination of new opportunities available to me and applying for jobs with “postdoc” status listed on my application materials instead of “graduate student” set me up nicely to obtain a job that is the right fit for me.

What was the biggest benefit of having a 5+1 fellowship?

I think the biggest benefit of the postdoc year is the flexibility the fellowship allows to explore one’s own interests and opportunities at Notre Dame (and beyond). 5+1 fellowships are designed such that every semester, a postdoc can teach a course or engage in another type of service to the department or the College. In the fall I taught one class, and this spring I am working on developing and fielding a survey with David Campbell, chair of the Department of Political Science. I know other fellows who assisted in curriculum development or even got to travel to other universities to work on collaborative research projects.

For me, this allowed me to focus on the type of work I wanted to do to prepare for an academic job. For others who are looking for opportunities outside of the academy, I could imagine the postdoc would be flexible to meet their needs as well. In all, the position allows ample time to devote to my professional development and independent research projects, which makes for a great transition year between being a graduate student and a faculty member.

In what ways did the fellowship opportunity motivate you to complete your dissertation?

Although I am a political scientist for love of the work and not for the money, I would have to admit that the motivation of having a paycheck this year is something that crossed my mind. I was fortunate to be in a situation where I could finish my degree in time to be eligible for the fellowship, which took away a lot of the guesswork and uncertainty about where we would end up this year. Knowing that I would have a position that would help me get where I wanted to be allowed me to direct my energy towards completing my dissertation without needing to wrap up all of the other projects I had going at Notre Dame and spending time lining up a job for this year.

What other aspects of your Notre Dame experience will be most important for you as you prepare for your faculty position?

First, I would raise the two obvious candidates: teaching and research. In my time at Notre Dame, I’ve been fortunate to teach two class (and serve as a TA in several more) and begin several research projects that have been published in academic journals. These are exactly the types of things I will be doing in the future, and I am glad to have had a head start on them.

I am also grateful for some of the other opportunities I’ve had as a graduate student and postdoc, including the chance to be involved in several interdisciplinary research groups and institutes, to serve on search committees for new faculty members, and to work at the teaching center on campus. These activities have all helped me become a more well-rounded scholar, and I think they have set me up well to be successful in my future work.

Kathryn Boehlefeld

How did your fellowship year prepare you for the academic job market?

My fellowship provided me with a crucial additional year of funding to go on the job market. The academic market is unique in that it operates in cycles: We apply for academic jobs in the fall for the next fall, so applications go out a year before the job start date. By being on the 5+1 fellowship, I was able to continue working on my research and teaching while being on the job market.

I was also able to go on the job market with my degree in hand. In other words, I was applying as someone who had finished her degree, rather than someone who was intending to finish her degree. 

What was the biggest benefit of having a 5+1 fellowship?

There were several. In addition to the additional experience that I was able to get from the fellowship in the form of departmental service (in my case, working with the Notre Dame International Security Center on curriculum development—a unique experience for a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow), I was also given additional career training, working closely with Notre Dame Graduate Career Services, which allowed me to better define what I wanted from my career and gave me additional resources to strengthen and polish my job market materials.

In what ways did the fellowship opportunity motivate you to complete your dissertation?

By giving me an additional year of funding that was guaranteed as long as I finished my dissertation, the 5+1 program gave me the ability to focus on getting the writing and research done but also gave me a firm deadline. With academic writing, there is always the temptation to make it even more perfect, so having the firm deadline of when I needed to have my dissertation complete in order to receive the funding was definitely a motivating factor!

What other aspects of your Notre Dame experience will be most important for you as you prepare for your faculty position?

My Notre Dame experience was marked with some unique opportunities. However, one of the most beneficial aspects of my time at Notre Dame was in the extra programming support they offer to graduate students. I received funding from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Graduate School to pursue additional research methods training and to present my research at conferences. A stronger research record will help me as I pursue my goal of becoming a tenured University faculty member.

In addition, I participated in the programming through the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, including short summer courses. The Kaneb Center programs made a large impact on my teaching and prepared me well for my current position as a visiting assistant professor at Valparaiso University.