"Pipeline" issues powerfully shape ASA initiatives as we work with departments to build strong faculties for the future. Through our Minority Fellowship Program, for example, we collaborate with departments to provide strong graduate training for future researchers. Most of our attention to the pipeline thus far focuses on undergraduate education, preparing and recruiting students for graduate school, and the training that they receive. While there are many and varied ways that students come into sociology and into graduate work, we have not put as much emphasis on the many and varied locations in which new PhDs may launch careers.
Monitoring Career Opportunities
We have considered the issue of "career location" from the vantage of following the work of sociologists and opportunities for employment inside and outside of the academy. Over the years, we have monitored position listings in the Employment Bulletin and have communicated this information to departments. Each year at the Chair Conference there is attention to the job market and employment trends as best as we can trace them. In 1998, as part of ASA's Research Program on the Discipline and Profession, we undertook a PhD-tracking survey of those receiving their degrees from July 1996 through August 1997. Yet, we have been less programmatic in working with departments on how best to actually provide training in light of the faculty role.
Intentional Training in Faculty Roles
With sociology currently experiencing better employment times in the academy, we know it makes sense to work now on preparing faculty for the classrooms and institutions of the future. Many of these opportunities we know will lie in primarily undergraduate institutions (community colleges are the fastest growing part of higher education). Irrespective of whether PhDs are headed for colleges or universities, however, there is considerable value to more intentional work on preparing for faculty roles.
ASA brings experience relevant to working with graduate departments on ways to best prepare students for faculty roles generally and to allow graduate students to test the "fit" of their interests with different undergraduate institutions and missions. Since the pioneering work of the teaching project launched in the mid 1970s through the MOST Program (Minority Opportunities through School Transformation) and other current initiatives (e.g., Department Affiliates, the Chair Conference, the Department Resources Group), ASA has developed a body of expertise and strategies for assistance and support. Thus, ASA is well positioned to tackle this new task.
ASA and the PFF
With favorable word on funding in November, ASA is embarking on a project called Preparing Future Faculty (PFF). ASA and five other learned societies in humanities and social science disciplines will be working with the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) on discipline-specific PFF projects. An aspiration long in the making, this initiative has come to fruition with a private gift of $1,635,000 to underwrite this highly collaborative and innovative project. In addition to ASA, the other disciplines are represented by the American Political Science Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Historical Association, the National Communication Association, and the National Council for Teachers of English.
In each discipline, four or more PhD-conferring departments will be selected competitively to create innovative faculty preparation programs. Departments can receive up to $10,000 for each of two years and are expected to (1) create clusters of partner departments in institutions ranging from community colleges to comprehensive universities, (2) collaborate with other PFF participants in the discipline, (3) develop an effective mentoring system, (4) provide direct experiences to learn about faculty life, and (5) expose students to promising curriculum strategies and teaching pedagogies. The full application packet is available from the ASA's Academic and Professional Affairs Program (202-383-9005, ext. 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org). The deadline is March 20, 2000.
The Underlying Goal
Preparing Future Faculty programs take many different shapes, but there is a configuration of principles that animates them all. Perhaps the most generic is that graduate students should enter the academic profession as competent professionals who have already begun a process of growth as scholars, as teachers, and as members of an academic community. This marks a significant departure from the usual approach where most of the intentional training is directed to research. Graduate students who aspire to faculty positions should be regarded as "colleagues-in-training" in all aspects of the job and have opportunities to see the full spectrum of faculty roles.
From the PFF perspective, the graduate experience should include increasingly independent and varied teaching responsibilities, opportunities to grow and develop as a scholar, and opportunities to serve the department and campus Apprentice teaching, research, and service experiences should be planned so that they are appropriate to the student's stage of development and progress toward the degree. And, as importantly, these experiences should be thoughtfully integrated into the academic program and sequence of degree requirements.
Few would take issue with this ambition. Departments, however, vary in how well and how intentionally they achieve these goals, even with research training. Given competing demands and limited resources for faculty as well as students, reexamining how we "do business" is a difficult enterprise that takes time and commitment - especially early on.
Yet, despite the challenge, there is a lot to be said for moving ahead and for this unique opportunity to work across disciplines and with CGS and AAC&U. We owe thanks in advance to the departments that apply and are selected to work on this project. While they have the chance to be at the forefront of academic change, what we will learn from and with them will enhance training of future faculty across our fields. How apt that we begin this reinvention at the start of a notable new year. May it be a good one for all of you and for our future PFF departments! - Felice J. Levine