Preparing Future Faculty at Florida State University

Jonathan Grant, October 2003

Editor's Note: During 2000–2002, the AHA received a grant from the Council of Graduate Schools and the Association of American Colleges and Universities under their joint program, "Shaping the Preparation of Future Social Science and Humanities Faculty," to provide funds for Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) programs in selected departments. Four history departments—of Boston College, Arizona State University (ASU), Howard University, and Florida State—participated in the AHA's program. This and the following article show different aspects of PFF in two of these settings.

The goal of the history department's Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) plan at Florida State University (FSU) is to foster professional development within the graduate program. Our PFF plan is designed to further students' professionalism beyond the confines of their classroom studies by providing them with experience and insight into other aspects of life in academia. Working in a partnership cluster with non-doctoral institutions including Tallahassee Community College, Florida A & M University, Bainbridge College, Valdosta State University, and Rollins College, we strive to increase graduate student awareness of the multiple dimensions of any faculty position. Our PFF program strengthens our graduates as job candidates and helps them successfully complete the transition from graduate student to new faculty member. The ultimate goal is to have professional development in teaching, service, and research so well integrated into the fabric of our graduate studies that PFF will no longer be seen as a separate, add-on program.

Ideally, all graduate students should be prepared for their future roles as faculty members. The rationale for our approach is based on flexibility, efficiency, and long-term effectiveness through maximum inclusiveness. Rather than devoting exclusive attention to three to five graduate PFF fellows (out of more than 100 graduate students) we encourage every student in our graduate program—MA and PhD—to participate in any and all PFF activities within the department and beyond. Those wishing to earn teaching certification must complete all the program components. The actual timing and order of completion is determined by the student. Thus, the program could be completed in a single year or over a series of years. Because the program is ongoing over the entire course of graduate study from the first day of new student orientation to defense of dissertation, the student can jump in at any point. It is never too late or too early for students to think about professional issues. Also, students who do not finish all the components still derive benefit from whatever portions they do complete.

Raising student awareness of professional issues before they are on the job market remains a major challenge. We meet this challenge by urging all our new graduate students to see themselves as professionals in training rather than just students from their first day, and we present the PFF program as the chief means by which they can achieve professional development in teaching and service without neglecting research. We then follow up throughout the year with our series of PFF workshops. This strategy has resulted in ongoing discussions of professional development among graduate students and faculty year round.

The key has been finding a way to reach as many students as possible in an effective manner without overwhelming the faculty with additional administrative and service obligations. Since 1998 the history department at Florida State has employed a menu approach that is flexible enough to handle the 100+ graduate students in our program. The PFF menu consists of the following components:

(1) Teaching College History course (HIS 6941)

This semester-long course is open to all our graduate students. Since we only allow post-MA students to be Teaching Assistants, by and large the students enrolled in any given semester are pre-thesis MA students. Partner faculty from Florida A&M and Tallahassee Community College also participate in this course, and their contributions expose students to the differences in teaching at different kinds of institutions. We require that a graduate student must complete this Course in order to be eligible for a TAship. As a result, every future TA participates in the PFF program, and even those who do not receive a TAship have taken part in at least one component from the menu.

(2) In-house PFF Professional Workshops

Students may complete workshops in the following areas:

Teaching: (1) Technology in the classroom (things you can do); (2) Devising and grading essay and paper topics; (3) Discussions in large Sections; (4) Building teaching Portfolios; (5) Planning a course; (6) Experienced TAs speak; (7) Teaching at a religious college;

Service: (1) Department service; (2) College service; (3) Professional service; (4) Community service

Research: (1) How to go to a conference—from proposal submission to networking; (2) How to get published and building a publication record; (3) Grant proposals; (4) Working in archives; (5) From dissertation to book

Job search preparation: (1) PFF job talk analysis: How to give a job talk; (2) C.v.'s and letter writing for a job; (3) Interviewing at AHA annual meetings; (4) The on-campus interview.

These workshops are conducted by the History Department faculty, and vary from 90 minutes to 3 hours in length.

(3) Visits to Partner Institution Campuses

During these visits (one each semester) a panel of faculty at a partner institution describes what it is like to be faculty at that institution. They discuss faculty governance, expectations for service and teaching, and what they look for in job candidates. The visits also serve as a way for our graduate faculty to learn more about the partner institutions and their needs as they relate to the training we give our students.

(4) Mentor Program with a Partner Institution

Over the course of a semester, mentor activities include (a) attending a faculty meeting or committee meeting, (b) participating in office conversations with mentor, (c) shadowing/observing faculty advising, etc., and discussing the activities observed, (d) talking to students of the partner institution, and (e) teaching a single class or multi-class unit.

(5) Creating a PFF portfolio

As a culmination of the program, graduate students are encouraged to reflect on their PFF experiences and organize them in the form of a portfolio.

The open-ended PFF activity timeline, in combination with many self-contained components for participation and learning, has allowed for easy administration and coordination of the program. Students can readily incorporate PFF activities into their semester and work schedules as their needs change. Also, the menu system puts the initiative and responsibility in students' hands. This fosters self-reliance and self-motivation; two traits we believe are essential for future history faculty. Because the students decide in what order and when to complete the different components, they effectively administer themselves without placing an undue burden on faculty. In turn, faculty can conveniently balance their time commitments and contributions to the workshops, etc.

The inherent flexibility has facilitated the program's sustainability. As a sign of how well integrated the PFF program has become in the history department, for five years a standing departmental PFF faculty committee has coordinated the activities. Furthermore, faculty receive credit towards their official department service for their work on this committee.

As faculty awareness and receptivity to the PFF goals have grown within the department, interest in serving on the PFF committee has also expanded. Faculty involvement has also continued to increase. In 1998 we had a committee of two. Last year the PFF committee expanded to four. The department's PFF committee now consists of six faculty members, or roughly one-fifth of the department. Furthermore, two other faculty members have taken part in PFF activities without formally joining the committee. The increased number of faculty participants has enabled us to offer more workshops and thus to reach more students.

Evaluation of the program's success in subjective terms such as confidence levels or poise of graduate students may prove difficult. However, a tangible measure of success is a documented increase in participation by a greater proportion of our graduate population. As of academic year 2000–01 approximately 30 percent of our total graduate population had participated in at least one part of the program. Now the level of participation has increased to roughly 50 percent (66 students). We can point to higher than average job placement rates in tenure-track positions as one measure of the success of our graduate students in increasing their professional development. We have gathered more complete data about the placement of our graduate students in tenure-track positions, and the data show the continuing effectiveness of the PFF program. In 2001–02 the history department placed three PFF participants into tenure-track jobs; of these two were still ABD at the time of hire. The results show that since 1998 those of our graduate students who have participated in PFF activities are 100 percent (nine out of nine) successful in gaining tenure-track positions compared to the 57 percent placement rate for the department overall in the same period. Even more heartening for the future of the PFF program is the fact that some of our recently hired PFFers, are now actively serving in PFF activities at their new schools, or they are working to establish a PFF program on the FSU model for their students. In this way our program has come to fruition. Former PFF graduate students are now partner faculty and mentors in their own right.

In conclusion, the PFF program in history at Florida State University has reached maturity. To reach a critical mass of graduate students we have integrated PFF elements into the classroom and complemented them with the workshops outside. There is no doubt that we can and will sustain our program for years to come. Our model of total inclusion for every graduate student in the program has brought tangible benefits, such as improved job placement and increased participation, without straining available resources of time and money.

—Jonathan Grant is associate professor of history at Florida State University.