OT - Providence, RI

Submitted by sheepman on May 12th, 2012 at 1:55 PM

All right - MGOBlog friends, here is a question for you. I know how far reaching the MGBlog family goes, so I think you might give some insight (and we are hiding this from my kids' grandma's at this point, so facebook won't work).

I have been looking for an academic job around my are (UM, Toledo, BGSU, EMU, etc) and NOTHING.

However, I recently was named a finalist in an interview at Brown University in Providence. I have a family of four - 2 little kids, wife, me - and am hesitant to move them across the country, but we may have little choice. 

Question is - how is Providence? fun? beautiful? Lots to do?




May 12th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

I got to this:  "I have been looking for an academic job around my are (UM, Toledo, BGSU, EMU, etc) and NOTHING.

 and then my brain stopped.


May 12th, 2012 at 5:16 PM ^

It is a good thing the doctoral application acceptance committee, my prelimary exam review committee, and my dissertation proposal chair and committee at the University of Michigan AND the application review committee at Brown University are not as critical as you are - otherwise I would be fucked. 

STW P. Brabbs

May 13th, 2012 at 2:30 AM ^

You let him goad you into listing all of your academic accomplishments, and it made you look like you were taking the trail to the Douchey Kingdom. You're obviously smart, brotha, or you wouldn't be looked at by Brown. Trust that the rest of us are smart enough to recognize that!

LSA Aught One

May 12th, 2012 at 2:00 PM ^

Is a decent area, but what you are really getting with this move is proximity. Boston is close, NYC is close, Maine is gorgeous and close. It's a great place to be and I'm sure having Brown on a resume doesn't hurt. Good luck!


May 12th, 2012 at 2:22 PM ^

Providence is a nice mid-sized city. They put a lot of work into redeveloping the downtown area about 10 years ago and it really paid off. Waterfire is a nice weekly event on the river in the summer. It may sound stupid but Providence Place Mall is really cool. It's under an hour to Boston and the Cape. Rhode island is a very quirky place in general but I think that adds to its charm. I'd say go for it. Brown is obviously a great school too.


May 12th, 2012 at 6:57 PM ^

I travel for work and stay in Western Mass (Southboro).  I had been staying downtown Boston and driving to work which took about 40 or so minutes.  My coworkers who also travel for work stopped staying in boston and started to say at Providence and like it better there (than Boston.) 

I support the decision, and if you don't like Prov, as suggested above, you can find a place somewhere closer to Boston, or even Hartford (or somewhere in CT)  I'd factor in taxes and cost of living, etc.

I'll be staying in Providence in the coming weeks (when I can afford to spend more time on the commute.)


May 12th, 2012 at 2:32 PM ^

I lived in Providence and commuted to Newport for 8 months.  As others have said,  Providence by itself is fine.  It's a decent city with a College town feel.  It also depends on where you live in the city.  Having Boston and Newport close is awesome.  Boston is, well, Boston, and Newport is one of the most unique cities in the country and really cool to visit. 

If you know of the show "Ghost Hunters,"  they are headquartered nearby in Warwick.  Providence has a surprising art and theatre scene for a city it's size, which is great if you have kids.  On the other side,  Providence has one of the most corrupt local goverments in the country.  And i live in Chicago, which is pretty bad itself.  One former mayor, Buddy Cianci, went to jail for corruption, got released, and was RE-ELECTED. 



May 12th, 2012 at 3:01 PM ^

Funny thing about Buddy Cianci is that he stepped down as mayor TWICE. The first time he stepped down was for assault. He found a guy getting it on with his ex-wife and beat the hell out of him. Providence being what it is, he ran again and won again. This time he got pinched for racketeering. I guess it was tough for him to serve as mayor as he served time in the pokey, so that was the last he served as mayor . . . so far.

I'm not correcting the story to be a know-it-all. I just find it funny. As someone who went to high school in Rhode Island, I've always been amused by the thought that Buddy Cianci really and truly was the most appropriate mayor that Providence could have had.

PS to Dinsdale - I went to HS on the island, just a stone's throw from Newport. Haven't gone back since my teens. Don't miss it. Newport, I mean. Providence is way more interesting. Good Italian food, anyway . . .

PPS - The Rhode Island accent makes those Jersey Shore people sound like Oxford dons . . .


May 12th, 2012 at 5:14 PM ^

Which one did you work at? For a little bit I lived in walking distance of the Cliffwalk and all that. I didn't take all the tours, but I took a few. Some were better than others, really. More showmanship, I guess. . . .


May 12th, 2012 at 7:28 PM ^

I did take the tour of Beechwood. I didn't even want to say, in case you worked at a different one, but Beechwood is far and away the best of the tours that I went on. I definitely remember that was the one with the good acting, as opposed to the regular boring tour guides. If I was going to recommend one mansion to tour, that would be it. I kind of got the feeling that all of the people involved were aspiring actors. Or at least were working their acting mojo when on the job . . .


May 12th, 2012 at 7:31 PM ^

I got hired right out of College there.  i was a theatre major and it was an awesome experience.  I met some cool people as well.  The other tours were always jealous of how much fun we had


May 12th, 2012 at 9:22 PM ^

The people there really seemed like they were having fun. Which definitely rubs off on to the people taking the tour. Really though, when I saw the actor-tour guides, it just looked like they were having a blast.

STW P. Brabbs

May 13th, 2012 at 2:26 AM ^

So correct me if I'm wrong. What I heard, though, is that when they broke up the 'bridgem over the river, many bodies were found in the cement. Urban myth or actual reflection of the prevalence of mob activity in Providence?


May 12th, 2012 at 2:34 PM ^

You can't be looking for a tenure-track job, right?  Because if you were, preferring to work at Toledo as opposed to Brown is a little disturbing.


May 12th, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

It is a director position of a program. If I was looking for a tenure track, I would love to be at a mac school - believe it or not. 

And about my decision: Job is not everything - both our families are from Toledo, I taught in Toledo Public for 10 years, we have a great church in Toledo, I have lots networks at UM and in Toledo. 

While Brown would be amazing, there is more to this decision than just my job. 



May 12th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

I don't bring it up to start a political debate, only to point out a fact.

Providence has an openly gay mayor and is the only city in New England with gay bathhouses.

For many people, that would not be an issue.  I'm sure that may be a source of concern for others.


May 12th, 2012 at 2:41 PM ^

Providence is great. Proximity of Boston and NY a huge plus, and Newport is awesome and extremely close. I would jump on this opportunity immediately - especially since its with an ivy league school.


May 12th, 2012 at 2:44 PM ^

Brown is an Ivy League school. It would probably be great to have a stint at an Ivy League school on your resume, no?

I don't know much about Providence, but it's only an hour from Boston. There's that.


May 12th, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

Thanks for giving me some food for thought all. My wife and I have lots to think (and pray) about.

Hopefully I get the job, and this becomes a real dilemma!


May 12th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

You have mentioned church and now praying about your decision. This seems like a priority in your life as it is mine. I would recommend that you search for a church in the area to see if there is one that stands strong on the doctrines that you hold to. If you are Catholic you are probably ok, if you are fundamental independent baptist I am sure that is going to be hard to find.


May 12th, 2012 at 3:08 PM ^

Providence is the end of the commuter line into South Station I believe, so Boston is really accessible.  It's usually easier to find your optimal job with one in hand.  Academics is no different.  Good luck.


May 12th, 2012 at 4:28 PM ^

Have you seen the movie about the monster that ate Rhode Island and spit out Providence?

That was a joke going around about 35 years ago.  However, since then, Providence has transformed itself into one of most appealing cities on the east coast.  It's quieter than Boston but has many of the best attractions of major cities, like theatre, music, and other cultural events.  It's a little like Ann Arbor, in that it is a medium size city that is home to a great school, which has a beautiful campus (Brown)  In addition , it has several other interesting universities--including perhaps the best design school in the country (RISD).  For children, there is an excellent private school adjacent to the Brown campus, though the public schools may vary in quality more than a place like Ann Arbor.  Your wife might like Providence if she enjoys interesting little neighborhoods to visit.  Also, it has such great proximity to Boston and NY (only about 3 1/2 hr by Amtrak--which includes a beatiful ride along the ocean, past Mystic and New Haven).

Personally, I like Providence--not as much as Ann Arbor but more than many West Coast cities and even more than Boston and Cambridge (primarily because it is quieter and still has many of multicultural and educational advantages).  However, if you and your wife grew up in the midwest and have never lived in the Boston-Providence area, then you will need to get used to a more formal cultural.  I do know people who have found it to be less neighborly than the midwest; and the status hierarchy is not for everybody.   It might be a great thing to have on your resume.  You could make a lot of good contacts, learn a lot, and become more visible in your profession.  Getting a position here could also be a good stepping stone if you want to get more involved in academics.  At the same time, though, you also need to consider the time you would have to actually develop your career at different places; and some positions at Ivy League schools will just make you a work horse.  I would ask a lot of questions about who previously had the position you are interviewing for and ideally speak to that person.

Anyway, you must be doing well to be a finalist at Brown for your interviews.  Congrats, best of luck and keep us posted on how it's going.


May 12th, 2012 at 4:40 PM ^

Thank you SO much for this response. You explained a lot, and clearly know a lot about the profession I am entering and the potential city to which we are moving. 

Few things:

1) I am kind of afraid of going there and having total culture shock, as you implied here. Sounds like a very cool place, but we are leaving a lot of networks that we have built up for a very long time. And we are very mid-westerny. Hard pill for me to swallow, but my wife is excited - which makes it easier.

2) I have thought a lot about your "work horse" thing, as that is exactly what I think this job is. I wondered a lot about why the other person left - and I wondered if it would be bad form for me to contact her. She looks really young and I don't think has been there for very long. My advisor told me it shouldn't be a "career killer" and it will teach me a lot about the work. It is a 3 year renewable, so I will have some choice after a term or two, I think. 

3) The idea of me doing well in this career as an academic still sounds strange to me. I am a near urban high school drop out, near college drop out, and have squeeked by my whole grad school career. I am living proof that one can near piss away their whole life, and get things back on track. Life would have been much easier, however, if I would have gotten things together a long time ago. I am both excited and scared shitless about this interview. The only I want (in addition to getting the job) is to go there and not embarrass myself totally. 

Again, amazing response. Thanks a lot. 



STW P. Brabbs

May 13th, 2012 at 2:22 AM ^

What field are you in? One thing I will say about Brown, specifically, is that the undergrads are pretty great to teach. I can now compare them to Northwestern students, and I'd take Brown kids any day. Because of the open curriculum, they generally take classes they're actually interested in, rather than only for distribution requirements. There's a definite trustafarian vibe with some, but even those kids can be interesting.

STW P. Brabbs

May 13th, 2012 at 4:03 PM ^

My wife was at a charter school there - Blackstone Valley Prep - for a couple of years, so I'm vicariously plugged into education-type debates.  Providence is certainly an interesting case study for urban education. 

Whatever you decide, best of luck.  If you go, be sure to get some Bob & Timmy's pizza, too.  Trust me.

snarling wolverine

May 12th, 2012 at 5:50 PM ^

I don't really see the comparison with Ann Arbor.  Yes, its population is similar in size and it has a major university.  But it's also much poorer, has a very different ethnic makeup and has a significantly higher crime rate.  It kind of reminded me of Durham, NC - another place where there's a jarring distinction between the student population and the permanent, largely poor, residents.