The key concepts that guide our program for graduate students, the future faculty, are these:
Graduate students should learn about the academic profession and have experience with the kinds of institutions that may become their professional homes. The majority of the doctoral students who seek faculty positions will not find employment in research universities. Doctoral programs should provide students the opportunity to make informed choices about the variety of academic career options and work settings in higher education. PFF programs create institutional and departmental partnerships, forming a collaborative network of faculty and academic administrators committed to the future professoriate.
The graduate experience should equip future faculty for the changes taking place in teaching and learning so they are adequately prepared for the classrooms of tomorrow. Yesterday, Professor Stacy introduced us to a constructivist point of view, something relatively new in thinking about teaching and learning. These ideas about effective teaching apply in both the academic and industrial work settings. PFF contends that doctoral programs should provide students the opportunity to learn about and acquire the best skills to teach and communicate with others.
Graduate programs should include formal systems for mentoring in all aspects of professional development. Let’s not make the assumption that faculty know how to mentor. Most were never trained to be a mentor, and those who are most successful accomplish a great deal without formal training in this area. We all know many of us could have used some help in learning how to be a better mentor. Syracuse University has a formal program that most of their faculty have now completed in order to be “certified” as a faculty mentor on its campus and to be rewarded for successful mentoring in the promotion and tenure process.
Graduate programs should include opportunities for students to develop professional expertise in teaching, research, and service, as well as opportunities to learn how to balance and integrate these responsibilities. Each of us struggles to find a balance between the many demands competing for our most valuable resource—our time and attention. Graduate students will tell you that they, too, have this struggle. Yet when programs create artificial boundaries or expectations (for example, working 60 hours per week in the lab), students are not given opportunities to learn about other roles or how to balance the roles.
Apprentice teaching, research, and service experiences should be planned developmentally so that they are appropriate to the student’s stage of development and progress to degree. Urban legends tell of doctoral students being assigned to teach classes, lead labs, or serve committees without the barest of preparation. And while many might believe this “swim or sink” approach is effective, I suspect many of us who have had that experience are convinced that there must be a better way. How could you do it differently?
PFF experiences should be thoughtfully integrated into the academic program and sequence of degree requirements. Program review and design are a very important collective responsibility for university faculty. We all share a concern about time to degree and recognize that each new idea cannot simply be added to the existing program requirements.