Friday, February 22, 2008

Preparing Future Faculty

According to the Carnegie Classification System for identifying colleges, my university is a "Research University - Very High", corresponding to the old R1 ranking. This means that the university awards academic doctorates, and both gets and spends a lot of money on research each year. There are 96 RU-VH universities in the United States. It's actually a partial sacrifice of anonymity to admit to this classification.

From a graduate student perspective, this is an amazing opportunity. I am learning how to do research at a university (and department) that are dedicated to research. My advisor opts out of most teaching requirements ("buys out" of them in some weird process by having X many research grant dollars), as does most of the department (except for the Instructors, of course). The first year of graduate study was as concerned with completing a research project as it was with course grades, and for the third year and beyond it's only concerned with research (I have to take one course a year - not a semester, a year). I am being as intensively trained in research as is possible. Huzzah.

From a future faculty perspective, however, this is a problematic position. The Carnegie site says that it changed classifications from the familiar R1 because there were almost 4,400 universities to classify. So only about 2% of the higher education institutions RU-VH. Narrow it down to a specific department, and it is a virtual guarantee that no PhD fresh out of grad school is going to get a job at a RU-VH. Which means that I am training in an environment that may very well be nothing at all like the one I eventually end up working in.

These perspectives combine to mean that I am being very well trained on research science, but not so much on the general job requirements with which I will eventually be faced. My perspective on professors as occasional-if-ever teachers is not going to match what I will need to do if I go the academic route. This would substantially change the dynamics of any department.

Fortunately, the Graduate Teacher Program here has a Preparing Future Faculty network (and certificate, should I choose to go that route). There are guest presentations from people at other classifications, trips, even possible mentorship with local colleges of different classifications. I think I can safely say that I wouldn't want to work at an RU-VH even if I could - far too much pressure and competition - so I'm using as much of these resources as I can to try and figure out what kind of academic job I would want to get.

No comments: