David Jortner (PhD, 2004)
Why did you decide to go to graduate school?
I was working in Southern California for Disney Studios—working as a publicity assistant for Touchstone and Buena Vista Television—I had “made” it and the path ahead was laid out for me—but I found myself increasingly unhappy with the corporate world. I missed being creative in my work and missed the immediacy of the theatre. So I decided to apply for a PhD. in Theatre with the goal of becoming a university professor. I figured if I got in it meant that was the role I was supposed to chase and if not, I would stay in LA. Luckily, I got into several schools and found my current career.
Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Pitt?
Coming from LA I knew I wanted to be in an urban environment. I had lived in a university town (I grew up in Blacksburg Virginia and had gotten my MA in East Lansing MI) and while I love them I was enjoying living in a city for the first time in my life. I also really liked the faculty I met when I came to interview—Buck, Bruce and Tom all seemed like people with whom I should study.
How did the degree program help prepare you for your career?
One of the best things about Pitt was how comprehensive and varied the program was. I was able to work on my artistic side as a director as well as explore theory and history. I was encouraged to publish and present my scholarly work. Finally, thanks to the resources of the university I was also able to get a graduate certification in Asian Studies. All of these things made me made me a much more competitive candidate on the job market.
What is your current position and what does it involve?
Currently I am the graduate program director and associate professor of theatre history and literature at Baylor University here in Waco Texas. I teach undergraduate and graduate classes in theatre history, theory and lit, Japanese theater and culture, as well as graduate classes in directing and run the MFA program in directing and the MA in Theatre Studies. I direct plays, research, write, and teach. I am also the book review editor for Asian Theatre Journal.
Thoughts and/or advice for current graduate students?
The job market is tough. Do what you can now to prepare for it. Those seminar papers you have been writing should be sent out to editors. They do you no good sitting on your laptop. Make contacts. Apply for all jobs. I didn’t plan on spending my career here at Baylor but I am a part of an amazing department and my colleagues are some of my closest friends. Be collegial. No one cares if you’re the smartest in the room—but we will care if you’re going to be a good colleague and a contributing member of the department.
That being said, remember to have a life as well. I loved my grad cohort at Pitt (in fact, I married one of my cohort members and we have two amazing kids together). My Pitt colleagues have no become my professional contacts and that was born as much by going to Pirate games together, hitting the strip district together or just watching a movie as going to shows and seminars together.