Natasha Howard never thought of herself as an artist. But with the help of the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program, this University of Georgia counseling psychology student has become one.
Through the program, she traveled to smaller, teaching-oriented colleges around the state, shadowing their faculty and trying her hand in the classroom. Afterward she had a revelation: She could be artistic as a professor. She could, for example, constantly brainstorm new teaching strategies, try different anecdotes and demonstrations with students and work up new approaches based on her audience's response.
"I can teach and use that as a means of being creative," said Howard at a session on faculty preparation at APA's 2001 Annual Convention. "In fact, the classroom should be a place for creativity--it should always be energized and new and creating new products."
PFF equipped her with this insight by revealing the world beyond the research university--one focused more on mentoring, teaching improvement and service. Program coordinators, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), established PFF in 1994 on many research university campuses. They aimed to expose graduate students to teaching-oriented institutions, which offer more faculty jobs. More recently, the program expanded to include national professional organizations--among them APA--in the awarding of university grants. The program operates through partnerships among research universities, community colleges, four-year colleges and comprehensive universities.
Some research universities embellish the program with well-stocked instructional development centers and--at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, for example--courses on teaching scholarship. Now that APA awards PFF funds, psychology students can tap the program through their departments at some universities. APA received the grant support from an anonymous donor through CGS and AAC&U, and it awards PFF funding to psychology departments with strong faculty-preparation agendas--ones that include smaller partner schools.
Students whose departments lack PFF can urge their faculty to get involved. It is worth it, said students who've participated, because there is much you can get out of the program, such as:
Exposure to diverse institutions. PFF gives you a chance to "find out the right [school] fit for you," said University of New Hampshire psychology student Jennifer Feenstra. Among the types of institutions she suggested trying: research versus liberal arts, urban versus rural, small versus large, public versus private and more diverse versus more homogenous.
Experience in different geographic regions. Some PFF partnerships involve institutions from different areas of the country. For example, the University of Colorado and Colorado College have teamed with Yale University, the University of Connecticut and Connecticut College. This prepares students for "the reality that we're going to have to go, most likely, to a different part of the country," said Geoffrey Urland, a University of Colorado social psychology student.
A broader conception of teaching. PFF provides comprehensive mentoring in teaching--from developing a syllabus to using an interdisciplinary teaching approach--something that's lacking at most major research universities, even in the teaching assistantships they offer, said Miami University of Ohio clinical psychology student Ayesha Shaikh. "Before PFF, I had thought that teaching was about lecturing and that faculty were researchers who would occasionally go in and teach a class," said Shaikh. "I saw that my exposure had been limited."
An illustration of faculty service. PFF reveals smaller schools' relatively larger emphasis on, for example, student advising, student relationships and committee work, said the University of Georgia's Howard. Added Urland, "In graduate school, really the only model we have is what our own professors are doing. PFF shows what else is out there. I've treated it as a lit search for my career."
If you would like to learn more about PFF, write to Paul Nelson or visit the Education Web site at www.apa.org/ed.