From the CRLT Blog

Preparing Future Faculty Seminar

February 10, 2014
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CRLT is accepting applications through February 24 for the May Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Seminar, which interested graduate students can learn more about here. In this guest post, American Culture PhD candidate Mejdulene B. Shomali reflects upon her experiences in the seminar last spring.

Mejdulene Shomali

Although I can hardly believe it, in a year’s time, I will be applying for academic jobs and preparing to defend my dissertation. When I began my graduate program in 2009, I remember thinking I would never survive my preliminary exams. When I achieved candidacy, I remember thinking the dissertation was an immaterial dream. Now, one chapter away from completing what I thought would be an impossible document, I found myself wondering how my chosen academic communities will receive me. Will I be selected for interview? Will I make campus visits? Receive offers?

While these matters are terrifyingly out of my control, my anxiety today is very different than it was at the beginning of the PhD and after achieving candidacy. Now, my worries focus on those elements truly beyond my control (the jobs available, the increasing pool of competitive applicants, and the complex decisions of selection committees). Participating in the 2013 Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Seminar allowed me to ease into the reality of finishing my degree and gain a stronger handle on those matters that I can control: how to prepare a teaching philosophy, how to craft compelling syllabi, and how to teach more creatively and effectively.

PFF Seminar participants discussing in groupsI would encourage anyone who feels mystified by the process of job applications and unsure of how to navigate the non-research elements of their academic career to participate in the 2014 PFF Seminar. PFF, like graduate school, is a brief but intense period of growth for students as they prepare to complete their graduate work and move on to the next phase. PFF gives participants breathing room to think in concrete ways about their future: At what kind of institution do you want to work? What kinds of classes are you prepared to teach? What strategies can you employ to navigate an academic job search and the demands of an academic career? And while it might be a scary question, PFF also provides an opportunity to ponder whether you want an academic position at all.

Often our grasp of plans for the future beyond graduate school are hazy at best. This is not because we are not concerned or diligent, but rather, because the PhD is a demanding proposition in and of itself. The beauty of PFF, then, is to allow its participants to remind themselves why they came to graduate school in the first place. It allows them to be agents in their future, actively engaging it and strategizing the success they desire. I am incredibly glad I participated in PFF last summer; it was an immensely valuable time to ground myself and I learned more than I could have imagined possible, not just about teaching and becoming “future faculty.” More, I was able to contemplate my vision for myself as “faculty” and begin to prepare for that future.

PFF Seminar participants and facilitators group photo

Mejdulene B. Shomali is a PhD candidate in the department of American Culture and the Program Coordinator for this year's May PFF Seminar. If you look closely, you'll see her in sunglasses at the center of this happy group of 2013 PFF Seminar participants.