Are you considering a faculty career after graduation? Want to know more about how to prepare? The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching offers a month-long seminar, “Preparing Future Faculty” (PFF), which helps graduate students navigate the transitional period between graduate school and becoming a faculty member.
PFF offers a view of what it means to be a faculty member at the same time it offers concrete trainings in preparing syllabi, teaching philosophies, and faculty applications. Over the course of my PFF seminar experience in 2017, for example, I conceptualized a summer-semester anthropology course entitled “Language and Humor.” Beginning with course objectives and building upon a backward design week by week, I received detailed feedback from other students across multiple disciplines on my course design. PFF helped me think through what I actually wanted students to get out of my courses, rather than thinking about syllabi as merely a curated list of good reads. By the end of the seminar, I had a complete draft of a syllabus, which I then submitted to the Department of Anthropology as my application to teach a summer course. My course was accepted, and I ended up teaching it as instructor of record the following summer
One of the most valuable parts of this program is the relationships you will develop with fellow students whose camaraderie and perspectives will help you find your footing in what is often an uneasy transition into the next step of academia. My participation was deeply informed by the perspectives of my peers in other fields. Working in teams of three to four over the course of the seminar, we supported each other and offered feedback on syllabi and teaching philosophy design. And there’s no better way to get to know one another than an old-fashioned road trip. Midway through the seminar, you will have the opportunity to visit one of four surrounding colleges or universities where you will meet with faculty and administrators and learn about the kinds of institutions that interest you. I was able to visit Kalamazoo College, where I discovered a place that provided many of the things I was hoping for in an academic community. By visiting a liberal arts college that prioritizes study abroad, I began to see how my previous work in study abroad could be interwoven into my future career in higher education.
In many ways, PFF is a seminar in the demystification of early academia. It operates upon the assumption that to present oneself as a junior faculty member is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and not just a naturalized disposition attained through one’s social status or inside connections. For example, over the course of the seminar, you will have the opportunity to speak with a range of academic professionals—junior faculty, senior faculty, and community college faculty. Amid an overabundance of (often conflicting) information, it was nice to be able to ask faculty frank questions about what is to come. In talking with these professionals, I began to get a sense of the kinds of questions I might ask, how I present myself as a researcher, and how to think about learning and teaching from the perspective of an administrator or faculty member. In the time since, many of the faculty I met at PFF have continued to provide me with job advice and an honest read of job materials, such as CVs and cover letters.
At a university with a sizable offering of educational trainings, PFF is a hidden gem. In short, it offers a platform for cultivating insightful conversations about the transition to tenure-track academia with professional staff from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and motivated graduate students from across the university—this all over a cup of coffee and brunch assortment.
To apply for the Preparing Future Faculty Seminar, click here. Applications are due March 1.