Quitting Academia and Writing About It

Back in May I jumped off the ivory tower and left academia. It was a huge and difficult decision to give up tenure, and one that was a long time in the making. It was also a decision that I struggled through mostly on my own. At the time, I wasn’t aware of a lot of examples of others who had taken the same leap.

It seems, however, that quitting academia is a growing trend. I was contacted a few weeks ago by Sydni Dunn (on Twitter of course!), a reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae website, who indicated that they have been noticing an increasing number of academics leaving the academy and writing about the reasons why. She had come across my own blog post on my decision to leave a tenured faculty position, and wanted to chat about my experience and to ask why I had decided to write about it so publicly.

Sydni just emailed me to say that the article was live, and I just read through it (thanks for including me Sydni!). You can find it here. It’s a very well-written piece, and it was refreshing to read about so many others who share some of my feelings about the current state of higher education. I particularly liked this quote from Melissa Dalgleish on why she wrote her own piece on leaving academia:

“I was attempting to get close to a world in which people won’t have to go through the stressful experience of renegotiating their entire identity when they decide not to remain in academia,” she said. “If we, the people writing, can counteract the stigma, the sense of alienation for people going through the same thing, then our purpose is fulfilled.”

That pretty much sums up my own motivation to write about quitting the academy. I wanted others who might be considering the same to realize that there can be life after the ivory tower. Being an academic is not an identity, it’s a job, and if it’s not a job that you love there are other jobs that might be more fulfilling.

If you are thinking about quitting, realize that you are not alone. Sydni has collected a list of 34 “I Quit Academia” essays, you can find them all here.

Head over to Chronicle Vitae to read the full article titled “Why So Many Academics Quit and Tell.”




About Peter Larson


I'm a recovering academic, current high school biology/zoology teacher, blogger, and science geek with diverse interests (and experience) in the areas of zoology, anatomy, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and exercise science. I made the fairly unusual jump from higher ed (10 years, including tenure, as a college biology professor) to teaching high school biology at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood, NH. In addition to being a dedicated teacher, I'm also an avid distance runner - I write about running at Runblogger.com. You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.