MLA presentation on job application materials

The Committee is very grateful to the work of five scholars who provided an inside look at job application materials, from the cover letter to the teaching philosophy to the diversity statement.

Some notable quotes from the presentation:

On cover letters

Elizabeth Lenaghan, of Northwestern University: “Tailor, tailor, tailor! Your cover letter is distinguished from your other job materials by its relevance to the job you are applying for. Highlight that relevance whenever and however possible.”

Niko Tracksdorf, of the University of Rhode Island: “Assume [the hiring committee] doesn’t know anything about what you’re doing. Make your letter easy to read: this is what I looked at, these are the main theories I used, what I found out… and here is my argument because of it.”

On teaching philosophies

Roya Biggie, of Knox College: “Demonstrate how you design lessons and assignments that help students achieve your learning goals. Ask yourself: Can someone who has never met me imagine my classroom?”

Sushil Oswal, University of Washington: “Discuss how the goals of your research and teaching serve their university’s mission statement and can help achieve the goals of their strategic plan.”

On diversity statements, and diversity more generally

Sushil Oswal, University of Washington: “Write a very personal definition of diversity and remember to include disability in it.”

Julia Istomina, Yale University: Think of your diversity statement as a vision statement. “Radical tip: leave your discussion of your own personal experiences to the very end, after you have shown your actionable work and plans (but leave room for exceptions).”


If you would like a copy of the powerpoint that the presenters used, please feel free to email session organizer Kristina Reardon directly at


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