Gary M. Burge. Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor’s Life. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. See here to buy the book.
In Mapping Your Academic Career, New Testament professor Gary Burge talks about the various stages of a professor’s career. There is the early stage, when the professor is trying to impress people, learn the ropes, and arrive at a state of security. There is the stage after a professor receives tenure, when a professor may find his or her own voice, make a contribution to scholarship, and be respected from his or her university and colleagues. Then there is the later stage, when a professor’s phone may not ring too often, but this stage can still prove significant: it can be a time when a professor reflects on larger questions, takes a detour and pursues something else, or offers wisdom to the professors in the first stage. All of these stages can have pitfalls, Burge argues, for discouragement, demoralization, burn-out, and unkind people in academia are all real. But the stages also have potential for success.
This is not really a book about how to get an academic job. It also does not address the proliferation of adjuncts in academia today, along with the rarity of getting a tenure-track position. Still, it does provide insight into how academia works, and I would say that even those who do not land a tenure-track position can benefit from its insights. Burge talks about how some professors try to act cool to impress their students, when the students actually are looking for a wise adult. He discusses effective teaching and how it tries to establish a connection with students rather than impersonally conveying information. He highlights the importance of academics picking a particular, specialized topic of interest (in one academic’s case, synagogues in Galilee before 70 C.E.) and learning all one can about that so that one can establish a niche, interact with scholars who have a similar interest, and make a contribution in that area. Moreover, while the book is not entirely helpful in explaining how one can make friends in academia, it does contain common-sense tips on how one can be a friend to new academics, in an environment that can get lonely: care about how the new academic did on his or her first day of class, introduce the new academic to other academics, etc.
Burge is not a psychologist, but his wife is a therapist, and he has an interest in psychology. That came out in this book, as Burge brought into his discussion psychological insights about stages of life and maturity.
There are other books that can guide academics on how to get their work published. This book could have gone into that more, so it was not as helpful in that department, though I did appreciate its definition of scholarship as interaction with the ideas of the scholarly world and trying to forge a new way forward. This book is helpful, however, in what it says about the atmosphere of academia, and life.
The publisher sent me a review copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.