Home/Rod Dreher/Whatever Happened To The Food Stamp Ph.D?

Whatever Happened To The Food Stamp Ph.D?

In May 2012 I highlighted a Chronicle of Higher Education story about a history Ph.D who couldn’t find work, and had to go on food stamps. Ever wonder what happened to her? The Chronicle‘s Stacey Patton did a follow-up. Excerpt:

Her efforts yielded a grand total of six phone interviews and visits to a couple of campuses—Martin Methodist College, in Pulaski, Tenn., and Landmark College, in Putney, Vt. Landmark paid for her plane ticket. But to get to Pulaski, Bruninga-Matteau had to dig into what little savings she had until Martin Methodist reimbursed her.

During her phone and campus interviews, Bruninga-Matteau’s appearance in the food-stamps article inevitably came up. At Martin, she tackled the subject head-on: She told the college’s president that, if offered the job, she would act as an advocate for adjunct faculty instead of shying away from contentious issues.

Months later, though, Bruninga-Matteau still had no job offers. June 11 was fast approaching. The medievalist prepared herself to walk away from academe for good.

“But the universe had a different plan,” she says.

It’s kind of a happy ending for Prof. Bruninga-Matteau, though she understandably sees it as an ecstatic ending, given where she started out. I say “kind of” because for all her study and work on her degree, and suffering on welfare, it sounds like she barely has a toehold on stability (though again, that is far, far better than where she was).

How are we going to do better by our scholars? As I said in that earlier post, I could have been this woman. If I had gone into academia, my subject would likely have been history, or some related humanities field. What will I do if one of my children has a passion for the humanities, and wants to be a scholar? I can’t see not supporting his or her dreams, if they’re any good in the field, but I also can’t see that it’s loving or wise to encourage them to go into a field in which they stand a good chance of being unemployed. What do you think? What would you tell your child who wants to be a history major (or lit major, or philosophy major, etc.)?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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