I'm applying for a job at an elite women's liberal arts college, which is part of a co-ed group of liberal arts colleges where students can easily take classes at any of these colleges (in the humanities, if that's helpful).

I assume it'd be pretty essential to address the fact that the job is at a women's college - but what can I possibly say that isn't trite (despite being true)? Of course, it'd be a joy to teach intelligent women and help them develop their academic interests in this unique setting - who wouldn't think so? What can I say?

If anyone has any experience of teaching at a women's liberal arts college: what made it special for you? (regardless of whether it would be useful for the job application)

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    "it'd be a joy to teach intelligent women" I would throw away your CV right away. If anything, it is a joy to teach intelligent pupils. Anyway the "harsh" reality is faced is that it is easy to teach intelligent and demanding pupils, it is rewarding to see average pupils blossom. But you are describing an elite school, so just be ready to have curious and intelligent kids, and some demanding parents (demanding in the sense that for 10 good demanding parent, there is 1 non-sensical demanding parent that will mess up with you... )
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 8:45
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    Why should the gender of the students matter at all? For a good instructor the gender of the students should be irrelevant and all students should be treated equally independent of their gender. Working at a school whith students of only one* gender should not change your approach to teaching, otherwise you have been biased before or are still biased thinking women* require something else than a coed course. *of course a purely dual gender vision is not reflective of reality.
    – Sursula
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 9:09
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    I wasn't suggesting that I would teach them any differently based on gender - I was simply asking if, since this is a women's college, they would expect me to say something about the fact that it is a women's college (e.g. the environment/opportunities this creates or the mission and how that fits into my teaching). (Nor does the label 'woman' necessarily suggest a dual gender vision - and I am aware that the college I'm applying to admits trans and non-binary students.)
    – PFD
    Commented Aug 18, 2023 at 9:23
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    @MaartenBuis I have had parents try to interfere in my classes. My universal response is "FERPA forbids me from talking to you. Take it up with the dean." This is a US-sepcific answer, but a college instructor should not be talking to parents. And that goes for the dual-enrolled high school students I teach, too. Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 18:14
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    @Sursula: Hmm, while I completely agree with your point that the gender of the students shouldn't matter at all, I'm not so sure whether that's the right approach for the OP. I'm inclined to believe that, if gender doesn't matter, it's not very reasonable to run a college where only students of a particular gender can attend. Doesn't this indicate that the gender of the students does matter for the college and for some of the students (namely for those who deliberately chose to attend a women's college rather than attending this college for other reasons only)? Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 22:12

3 Answers 3


You have two questions, so I'll answer separately:

  1. What can I possibly say that isn't trite (despite being true)? There are as many criteria for evaluating application essays are there are faculty sitting in those committees. I've sat in many faculty search committees, and chaired a good portion of them, and my general feel is that these questions on the application materials are there to answer two issues: (1) Are you not crazy?, and (2) Did you do your homework? In other words, the essays are there to screen bad candidates, not to select the good ones. I've never seen a committee make an offer to a candidate based on the essay. Any well written answer, with no grammatical errors, that addresses the type of university we are (e.g. research vs. teaching; small vs. large; residential vs. commuter; elite vs. open admissions, etc.) gets the pass.

  2. What made it special for you? (regardless of whether it would be useful for the job application). I have not taught at an elite women's college, but I have several colleagues who have, and some who still are teaching there as full tenured professors. I do have experience teaching at small and large elite universities. If you get the job, what you might find is that these colleges are in many ways, just like everywhere else in academia. Just because the faculty are proportionally more women than men, does not diminish the petty fights, the political positioning, the social climbing, the backstabbing, etc. normal in similar co-ed institutions. Based on the stories from the friends who taught and still teach there, it seems that the level of student entitlement is above average (read: immense pressure on professors to just give As to everybody resulting in ridiculous levels of grade inflation, impossible to bring a disciplinary case against a student, US culture wars stuff, etc.) On the bright side, they also have all the benefits of elite institutions, like good funding, job security, respect for the liberal arts, etc.


Your job application is about why they should hire you. It is not about what you enjoy.

My field has poorly served female students. There are evidence-based methods of helping female students learn (they also work for other students). If you are working in my field, you might describe how you use those methods. This would apply to any faculty job application at a coed college too.

A faculty member who taught physics at a women's college said teaching there is the same - that seems very logical.

Do mention the other aspects of the college that are unique and why your skills contribute to them.

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    (+1) for the second paragraph. If you want a buzz word for it (which will make a lot of small, private, liberal arts college hiring committees happy): "universal design for learning". Things that are good for students with physical handicaps are often good for students without those handicaps. Things that are good for black and hispanic students turn out to be good for white and asian students, too. Things that are good for women can be good for men, as well. Commented Aug 19, 2023 at 22:29

While I haven't taught at such a college, my daughter attended one. I don't think you need to specifically address that it is a women's college, but rather that you are qualified to teach great, hard working, demanding students.

Such colleges, like other elite colleges, are small enough that they can demand excellence from their faculty. The focus is on teaching, but research, especially that open to undergraduates is also highly valued.

What makes elite women's colleges "special" is that there isn't a lot of sexist BS that occurs in the greater world and tries to "put women in their place". These students know their "place" and it isn't at the bottom (or the kitchen, unless they really choose that). The college will likely be a highly supportive environment in which the students (some of which are trans women these days) can find their own path to excellence.

I have some experience as a visitor at an elite college, though it was co-ed. The students are very demanding of high quality instruction and accepting of hard work. They come in smart and eager. You need to support that. I'd suggest that is where you put your focus in an application. They will be more interested in beginning research opportunities than the typical college student. Many of their parents will be academics. Very high standards.


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