Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mock on, mock on...

Last Thursday evening the department held its annual mock-interview extravaganza, an evening event in which PhD students seeking jobs have the opportunity to role-play the job interview with at least two different interview teams made up of the department's faculty members. This year, the event was arranged by Tony Pollock, our superb Director of Graduate Studies, who divvied faculty into teams of two and scheduled mock interviews for our job seekers.

For those who do not know, faculty hiring in English departments typically involves a high-stakes 30-40 minute interview at our national conference in which search committees ask prospective hires about their research and teaching. This is a very nerve-wracking process (I speak from personal experience) because it feels so artificial: the ability to sound poised under great pressure while talking to strangers does not necessarily correlate to any of the things that successful faculty members do on a day-to-day basis, and it feels as though you can blow years of hard work by having a single inarticulate moment in an interview. Most of these interviews follow a somewhat predictable template that includes questions about the current research project and questions about different kinds of teaching. And since there is some formula to this, it helps a great deal to have the chance to rehearse. Otherwise, by the time you figure out how to interview properly you can have wasted some valuable opportunities.

I love this event--which I privately think of as mockapalooza--for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is kind of fun to do the role-playing. For another, it is interesting for me to see what PhD students in other areas of the department are doing. If the students that the team of Perry and Courtemanche mock-interviewed this year are any indication, we have some wonderful people seeking jobs. More generally, I think this is one of the events where our department is at its very best as a community. It is heartening to see so many faculty members (almost half of the department) coming into the English Building after dinner on a chilly winter evening to help graduate students prepare.

Thanks, Tony, for your organizational work. And thanks to all of the faculty members who participated this year. Best of luck to our job-seeking PhD students--may you all have the interview experiences you deserve this January in LA!

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