Visiting Professorships for Retired Faculty
I retired from full-time teaching in 2007 and, like many retirees, was eager to spend time with my children and grandchildren. However, they live in New York, the most expensive city in the U.S. (I would have a similar problem if they were in San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, Honolulu, or any number of other expensive urban areas.) It seemed I had two unpleasant options: Go for a brief visit, typically a long weekend, and stay in a hotel or sleep on their hide-a-bed. Doable, but not appealing. Alternately, I could opt for a short-term furnished rental (sometimes called “executive stay apartments”) and have the luxury of my own place as well as the opportunity to stay for a longer time. Great, but not cheap. What to do?
For me the answer was neither. I chose a one-semester visiting professorship that combined the best of both options with none of the downsides. More important, this is a travel option available to virtually all retired faculty reading this blog. Being a visiting professor at a university in the same city as children and grandchildren allows you to earn enough income (when combined with retirement funds) to pay most or all your expenses while away from home. It gives you 4-6 months, instead of 4-6 days, to spend with family, resulting in a more leisurely and pleasurable visit. Finally, some schools (especially those in expensive urban areas) have faculty housing for visiting professors at deeply discounted rates. The end result is that you have months, not days, with kids, earn enough to pay your own way, live in a place you can afford, and make an educational contribution to your host institution. To use a hackneyed cliché, it’s a win-win situation.
From 2008 to 2011 I was a one-semester Visiting Professor at Columbia University in New York. I taught one undergraduate course and was paid $10,000 and allowed to stay in Columbia Faculty Housing at below market rates. The income from teaching, along with my TIAA/CREF funds and the low-cost rental, allowed me to enjoy the pleasures of New York City for five months without having to touch my savings. I know that other universities pay visiting faculty less, but the cost of living in New York is far higher. So it is probably a wash.
Now many of you may doubt your ability to duplicate these efforts, saying, “You got a teaching position at one of the great academic institutions in the world, but what am I supposed to do?” That statement is utterly wrong, and I want you to immediately discard those beliefs and start thinking positively. Major R-1 universities, like Columbia, have an on-going problem staffing freshman/sophomore courses (especially service courses for non-majors) because their prestigious, “fancy-schmancy” faculty won’t teach them. Department chairs are often eager to hire retired professors with 20, 30, 40 years of undergraduate experience who are willing to come for a one-semester teaching stint. Before retirement I taught at Macalester College, a superb undergraduate liberal arts school but not a place to be confused with Harvard, Stanford, or MIT. However, when I applied for a visiting position at Columbia I was snapped up and then rehired the next three years. When I first arrived on campus I had an office next door to Prof. Robert Holliday, a visiting professor from Lake Forest College in Illinois, another good undergraduate school. Like me, Columbia hired him due to his extensive classroom experience.
So, the moral of this story is to use all that experience on your resume to travel to an enjoyable city (I was also a visiting prof at UC-Berkeley) and spend some quality time with your family. Best of all, you can do it all “on the other guy’s dime.”
G. Michael Schneider is the Academic Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. You can read more of his work at http://otherguysdime.wordpress.com/, and learn more about his new book, entitled On the Other Guy's Dime: A Professional's Guide to Traveling without Paying.
Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/haarald/54433510/