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Solving The Dual Career Dilemma: Three Case Studies

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.463.1 - 4.463.8



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Paper Authors

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W. Brian Hyslop

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Susan L. Burkett

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Susan Vrbsky

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Laura Ruhala

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Richard Ruhala

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John Lusth

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3675

Solving the Dual-Career Dilemma: Three Case Studies Susan L. Burkett, John C. Lusth, Laura A. Ruhala, Richard J. Ruhala, Susan Vrbsky, Brian Hyslop

Boise State University/The Pennsylvania State University/The University of Alabama


The objective of this paper is to share personal observations from science and engineering couples seeking suitable employment in academia. Dual-career couples have a number of obstacles to overcome in satisfying their career goals. It is difficult enough to find one tenure- track position and suitable professional employment for the spouse in the immediate geographic area. It is even more difficult to find two tenure-track positions, especially considering negative attitudes sometimes held toward married couples in the same department or college. However, couples with similar disciplines do have somewhat of an advantage - it is often easier to negotiate or coordinate two hires within a department or a college rather than within an entire university. Given the scarcity of women in engineering and science, often a college can add an additional position through a diversity hiring program. For this reason, some universities initiate formal programs for dual-career couples.

Three married couples with degrees in science and engineering share their observations on the obstacles encountered in each couple’s search for two tenure-track faculty positions. Each couple discusses the plans they made in searching for two positions, the short term plans they made in case the search was unsuccessful, and how they plan to deal with the long term possibility that two positions may not be obtainable. Each case study ends with a set of suggestions for others in similar situations.

I. Introduction

It should be apparent to most universities that recruitment and retention of good faculty members requires flexibility and understanding. Regardless of whether a university emphasizes undergraduate education, graduate education, or research, having the best people should be the primary goal. In order to achieve this goal, sometimes extraordinary measures are needed that go beyond the conventional hiring practices. While previous studies have reported statistical compilations, the amount of data is so limited that we believe anecdotal evidence remains important.1,2 This paper in particular will explore the challenges faced by dual-career couples through the stories of three couples faced with finding academic positions in science/engineering disciplines for each spouse.

The format of the remainder of the paper is the following: each couple will tell their story and then answer a series of questions pertinent to the challenges faced by dual-career couples.3 For the purposes of this paper, we are referring to a dual-career couple as one in which both parties are looking for academic positions.

Hyslop, W. B., & Burkett, S. L., & Vrbsky, S., & Ruhala, L., & Ruhala, R., & Lusth, J. (1999, June), Solving The Dual Career Dilemma: Three Case Studies Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina. 10.18260/1-2--7944

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