Joseph Topornycky, Manager, Graduate Student Programs, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology

Joseph Topornycky, Manager, Graduate Student Programs, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology

BY: as told by Joseph Topornycky / as written by Catherine Nygren

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Before my PhD, I had a web design business in New York. Because of the troubled market following 9/11 and my flagging passion for the business, we dissolved it and I took time off to figure out what I wanted to do. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to teach philosophy, in part because of 9/11 and America’s response to it.

I had an animation degree, so I had to go back to university for a BA/MA in philosophy. I undertook my PhD at the University of British Columbia and completed a dissertation on the intersection of personhood and responsibility. My supervisors, mentors, and committee were all supportive of me figuring out what I wanted to do, and so, in addition to TAing and teaching as a main source of funding, I also sought out positions with UBC’s Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth, which later became the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT). I wanted experience on my resume intelligible to people outside of academia, especially since I was relatively certain that I did not want to pursue an tenure-track position. Serving on a hiring committee let me see the luck involved with getting a tenure-track job, reaffirming my decision to move outside the traditional academic career path.

Immediately after graduation, I was hired by CTLT as a TA training developer, and then, six months later, for my current position as the Manager in Graduate Student Programs. My philosophical training directly informs my work every day. As a manager, the way I approach people is a co-deliberative process and involves clarifying what people mean and what they’re trying to accomplish. The question, common in Analytic Philosophy, of “what do you mean by X?” has done so much work for me in my career.

Interdisciplinary interaction and experience are also key. Make sure you spend a good amount of time outside your discipline, especially to learn to communicate. People that have a grad degree have a lot to contribute outside the university, but they sometimes have difficulty communicating it.

Before my PhD, I had a web design business in New York. Because of the troubled market following 9/11 and my flagging passion for the business, we dissolved it and I took time off to figure out what I wanted to do. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to teach philosophy, in part because of 9/11 and America’s response to it.

I had an animation degree, so I had to go back to university for a BA/MA in philosophy. I undertook my PhD at the University of British Columbia and completed a dissertation on the intersection of personhood and responsibility. My supervisors, mentors, and committee were all supportive of me figuring out what I wanted to do, and so, in addition to TAing and teaching as a main source of funding, I also sought out positions with UBC’s Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth, which later became the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT). I wanted experience on my resume intelligible to people outside of academia, especially since I was relatively certain that I did not want to pursue an tenure-track position. Serving on a hiring committee let me see the luck involved with getting a tenure-track job, reaffirming my decision to move outside the traditional academic career path.

Immediately after graduation, I was hired by CTLT as a TA training developer, and then, six months later, for my current position as the Manager in Graduate Student Programs. My philosophical training directly informs my work every day. As a manager, the way I approach people is a co-deliberative process and involves clarifying what people mean and what they’re trying to accomplish. The question, common in Analytic Philosophy, of “what do you mean by X?” has done so much work for me in my career.

Interdisciplinary interaction and experience are also key. Make sure you spend a good amount of time outside your discipline, especially to learn to communicate. People that have a grad degree have a lot to contribute outside the university, but they sometimes have difficulty communicating it.

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