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In 1995, we established a Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program in the department to ensure that all students in our graduate program receive the training to make them excellent researchers and teachers and to provide advanced coursework, training, and experiences in teaching and scholarship in a variety of settings, including liberal arts colleges. For 25 years before this, our department had been one of very few to offer a course to train and support graduate students entering their own classrooms for the first time. The establishment of a PFF program brought our commitment to training students in all the primary roles of faculty members–teaching, research, and service–to a new level. The architects of our PFF program were outstanding scholar/teachers, Distinguished Professor Bernice Pescosolido and Rudy Professor Brian Powell, and later Chancellor’s Professor Rob Robinson. The program is based on the assumption that graduate students should be prepared to enter faculty positions as competent professionals who have already begun a process of growth as teachers, scholars, and members of an academic community.

Our Preparing Future Faculty program has several components:

(1) A three-course sequence leading to a Certificate in College Pedagogy.

The first course, The Teaching of Undergraduate Sociology, is taught by award-winning faculty and is required of all of our first-time teachers to help them prepare their syllabi, deliver informative lectures, lead effective discussions, deal with student problems, etc.

The second course, Issues in College Pedagogy, is an optional course that allows students to take a more reflective look at their teaching, become conversant with issues and problems facing higher education today, and link their own experiences in teaching to these larger issues.

The third course, Research in Higher Education, which is also optional, allows students to connect their teaching and research interests by engaging in active scholarship on teaching and learning. This is usually a collaborative research project undertaken by the entire class. Often, the results of this research have been published in Teaching Sociology, the leading pedagogy journal in sociology.

(2) Opportunities for “shadowing” at liberal arts colleges. The shadowing experience results from a unique partnership that we’ve developed with the sociology departments at several liberal arts schools to provide our students with a mentoring experience that we could not otherwise offer them at IU. Shadowing has allowed PFF students to work with a carefully-selected faculty mentor at DePauw University or Hanover College, so that they can discuss, among other topics, their goals for future employment, prior teaching experiences, and objectives in their current teaching. The liberal arts faculty mentors discuss and share their teaching strategies, how they balance teaching with service and research, how their teaching experiences contrast with the teaching styles and strategies the graduate student may be practicing or observing at IU, and what the student can do to prepare for the academic job market and for a career at a liberal arts school. PFF mentees visit classes at their host institution, talk with undergraduates, attend faculty meetings, and sit in on departmental hiring committees to get a sense of what makes a strong job candidate at such institutions. They also participate in the orientation workshops that these schools offer for new faculty on such topics as course development; creating classroom climates that are welcoming to all students, using technology in teaching and research; handling difficult students, etc. For students aiming for careers in liberal arts teaching, this experience allows them to hit the ground running at their first jobs. It can also result in experience teaching courses at the host institution that is invaluable in getting a job at a liberal arts college.

Matthew Oware

Matthew Oware, PFF graduate student, winner of the Lieber Memorial Teaching Associate Award, and now Department Chair, DePauw University.

(3) A full slate of Preparing Future Faculty Workshops for the entire department on issues of teaching, careers in sociology, and the professorate that bring in faculty from a range of institutions, editors of various sociology journals (e.g., Teaching Sociology, Sociology of Education), sociologists in government and the private sector, and other visitors. Recent topics have included: Using a Teaching Assistantship as a Bridge to Teaching on Your Own, Finding a Research Mentor, Balancing Work and Family Life as an Academic, Applying for Grants, Compiling Teaching and Research Dossiers for the Job Market, Managing your Time, and Life as a Faculty Member at Research, Comprehensive, and Liberal Arts Schools.

(4) Opportunities to participate in the campus-wide Preparing Future Faculty Conference held annually at IU, in which students and faculty present papers on issues related to teaching and the future careers of graduate students. Also, opportunities to participate in regional and national conferences focusing on higher education and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

(5) A Preparing Future Faculty Fellowship that each year supports a graduate student interested in college pedagogy and other issues in higher education. The PFF Fellow assists in teaching The Teaching of Undergraduate Sociology, organizes the PFF workshops, plans and organizes the annual Preparing Future Faculty Conference, and participates in regional and national conferences on higher education.

Janice McCabe, PFF Fellow, co-teaching first time teachers

Janice McCabe, PFF Fellow, co-teaching first-time teachers in The Teaching of Undergraduate Sociology; Credit: Kendall Reeves

We are proud of what the PFF program has been able to do for our students. In recent years, our graduate students have won more system-wide teaching awards than the grad students in any other department at IU. Our graduate students have been successful in publishing, not only in research journals, such as the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Sociology of Education, etc., but also in journals that focus on college pedagogy (e.g., Teaching Sociology). And in 2001, the program received the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, an award that usually goes to individual teachers.