INSIDE IOWA STATE
November 9, 2001
Program helps aspiring faculty -- during graduate school
by Anne Krapfl
A national program aimed at helping graduate students make the leap from
school to faculty careers arrives on campus spring semester. The 9-year-old
"Preparing Future Faculty" currently seeks:
PFF targets graduate students who are in at least the second year of their
academic program. Over four semesters, PFF participants attend topical
seminars, meet at least twice monthly with a faculty mentor, teach first a
course unit and later a course or course section, and complete another
independent project. They receive graduate credits for their
- Up to 30 students who want careers in higher education.
- Faculty members who can help recruit students or volunteer for a variety of
mentoring or one-time teaching assignments.
The program emphasizes a faculty balancing act of teaching, research and
service. "But what don't most research universities give their students?
Teaching opportunities," said Donna Kienzler, associate professor of English
and assistant dean in the Graduate College who is coordinating Iowa State's
PFF program. Thus, the practical experiences tend to focus on preparing and
"This program is designed to be very flexible," Kienzler said. "It's
designed to pick up where departments leave off." She said ISU departments
vary in how much guidance and experience they offer graduate students in
areas such as grant proposal writing, ethical and legal issues related to
teaching, promotion and tenure processes, using technology in the classroom,
faculty roles in departments or public service.
She called PFF "a wonderful balance of practical and
What it looks like
Assistant professor of curriculum and instruction Barbara Ohlund
participated in PFF as a graduate student at Arizona State. She said the
first year of the program provided lots of helpful information about what
life in academia looks like and the range of faculty options from community
college to Research I universities. The second year, she said, provided her
a chance for cross-disciplinary collaboration on teaching and service
projects with colleagues in engineering, chemistry and exercise science.
"That was a good snapshot of what you should be doing as a faculty member,"
Li Cao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is a PFF graduate
from the University of Minnesota. She, too, cited the program's helpfulness
in identifying the type of institution that best suited her career
interests, and the experience of managing a course over a full semester
rather than an occasional lecture as a teaching assistant. Cao said the
relationships with other graduate students and faculty members were valuable
for getting answers to lots of questions.
"When I arrived at Iowa State (fall 2000), I was not that mature as a
teacher, but because of PFF, I knew what direction I was going, what I
needed to do, what the expectations were," she said. "PFF is just
The Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of
Graduate Schools sponsor PFF. Early funders of the start-up effort included
the National Science Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts. While the
schools that piloted PFF received external funding, Kienzler said time and
experience have shown that the program works best when it is funded within a
college or university.
"Once some of those initial grants ran out, the programs floundered," she
said. Faculty commitment to the program also is crucial, she said.
Funding for PFF on this campus came from new tuition money (as strongly
advocated by the Graduate Student Senate) and a reassignment of staff duties
within the Graduate College.
As Iowa State's PFF program grows, the plan is to build a network with other
higher education schools in an expanded mid-Iowa region and to add a minor
in higher education to the ISU graduate curriculum. The "cluster" system
allows programs to draw on the faculty expertise at member schools. It also
gives graduate students more options for their teaching experiences.
For more information, visit the PFF national Web site,
http://www.preparing-faculty.org, or contact Kienzler, 4-4533.
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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