Students in Academia: From Commencement to Completion 

By: Rivka Inger  |  May 14, 2024

By Rivka Inger, Senior Features Editor

Few career paths at YU are as mystifying as the path to academia. Though most students seek to apply their majors to conventional careers, there are a few who wish to dive much deeper, and spend many years specializing in and researching their chosen field. 

Academia is essentially the profession of professors, scholars, and researchers. Those in this line of work invest their energies into studying a particular field – often a very narrow and specialized one – to generate new ideas, discoveries, etc. This path is not one often chosen for many reasons; including but not limited to being infamously unprofitable, requiring an additional several years of schooling besides for the standard four-year undergraduate degree, and being a difficult industry to break into even after earning a terminal degree (the highest degree possible in the area of study). Rather, those who pursue academia do so in order to explore and implement their passions.

I sat down with a few of these students – who wish to remain anonymous – to learn more about their fields of study, their journeys, and what kind of support they receive from YU in their endeavors. 

Student #1: 

I am a philosophy major in Yeshiva College. As someone who has had interest in the field of Jewish philosophy, I had intended to pursue academia as I commenced my journey here. Going into the specific area of Judaic studies, the path into the academic world becomes slightly less hazy in Yeshiva University, but it by no means is clear. There are no jobs. YU, for its part, has been exceedingly helpful as the number of Jewish academics here are extraordinary. There is no better institution for a prospective Jewish academic to pick the brains of professors in than Yeshiva University.

Student #2: 

I’m mostly studying Jewish history and history, with a minor in English. The type of academia I’m involved in is much more holistic and personalized, as I’m primarily focused on learning. The rigorous scholarship involved in academia is mostly a lot of reading and a lot of thinking and a lot of writing. It mostly happens alone in the library. My mentors are happy to offer reading recommendations, to meet with me, to look at my writing, and to put me in touch with other mentors. One of my professors is really pushing me to apply for various overseas scholarships/fellowships and offering his help to apply. But that’s not really my focus – I just want to read and write and teach.

Student #3: 

I’m a shaped major in neuroscience, due to the men’s campus not having tracks like Stern does.

I want to pursue a career in academic clinical and translational neuroscience. The journey to academic neuroscience is varied depending on what subspecialty of research you want to focus on. In my case of pursuing clinical and translational neuroscience, the requirements are a mixture of background in both advanced biology and psychology, with extensive lab work done in both fields as it may apply to studying the neurobiological causes of neurological and psychiatric/psychological disorders as and when they arise. In any event, neuroscience fields often require at the very least an MA to then conduct research, but often to be truly academic will require pursuing a full-time Ph.D in neuroscience or a very closely related field that provides one with sufficient research exposure.

I believe my mentors at YU have been uniquely helpful in that whereas only two are neuroscientists by training and profession, my biology and psychology professors have been rather encouraging and open to helping me explore my pathways and options in this career path. Above all, they have not turned me away from the field, but openly encouraged me to pursue it and have partnered with me to determine the how and when.

Speaking with these students, all pursuing academia in different fields, it gave a distinct glimpse into the arduous journey lying ahead of them. At the same time, it was an enormous comfort to see how supportive and helpful YU faculty are in guiding the next generation of scholars, seeing as how academia is an enormously mentorship based career. Academia is a huge commitment of one’s time and career focus but is an amazing way to pursue your academic passions, even if they may be a bit unorthodox in the standard career sphere. Never be afraid to ask YU mentors for guidance in this area, they will always be glad to help. They were once in your shoes too, and are always looking to guide their students in finding their passions.