Speaking of Education

Five years ago, in the midst of national attention to the extended postdoctoral experiences and related employment difficulties faced by new doctorates in science fields, Willie Pearson, Jr., and the late Alan Fechter, science policy scholars, co-edited a book, "Who Will Do Science? Educating the Next Generation" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994). Shortly thereafter, their colleagues Sheila Tobias, Daryl Chubin and Kevin Aylesworth wrote "Rethinking Science as a Career" (Research Corporation, 1995).

There is a sequel to these writings that comes to mind--one that is applicable to educators. It is this: "Who will be tomorrow's faculty? Rethinking academic careers." While this question can and should be posed at all levels of education in our society, the present focus is on those responsible for undergraduate and graduate education in our discipline.

Approximately 30 percent of the doctoral graduates in psychology take initial employment positions in institutions of higher education, from community and four-year colleges to universities and professional schools, according to APA's Research Office. More important questions than those pertaining to numbers, however, are those pertaining to who these graduates are, what leads them to seek primary employment and perhaps careers in academe, and how well are they prepared for their faculty roles in a higher-education landscape that itself is changing. These are questions about preparing future faculty.

Mismatched preparation and career goals

Some years ago, following a discussion I had with a group of graduate students about their education, a student approached me. The student was enrolled in a large research university doctoral program and shared with me his considerable frustration at not having found a member of his faculty who would be interested in mentoring him toward his goal of teaching at an undergraduate college. I wondered whether this was an isolated case or one much more common.

Putting this incident in the context of factors probably unknown to the student at that time, it also brought to mind many issues familiar to us as educators. Among them are the values and rewards for faculty in our graduate education system, the diversity of these cultural patterns across types of academic institutions, the changing demographics of our graduate student population, and what that might imply about the diversity of their career interests, and of course the changing job market.

Two years ago, to begin to address these issues, the Education Directorate banded with leaders of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students to initiate a conversation, now developed into an informal ongoing Internet listserv, among graduate students in psychology who are interested in teaching and academic careers. We were fortunate also to enlist the support and participation of several faculty colleagues whose scholarship is related in part to mentoring and faculty development. For information about this listserv, please contact us at education@apa.org.

One of the outcomes of this initiative is a workshop planned for APA's 2000 Annual Convention, Aug. 4-8, focused on the development of graduate students for teaching careers. It is being organized by professors James Korn of St. Louis University, Stephen Davis of Emporia State University, Thomas McGovern of Arizona State University and Barbara Nodine of Beaver College. Of a related nature, the Science Directorate, with the leadership of professor Emanuel Donchin, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has supported several workshops annually in recent years on junior faculty development in a research university environment.

A common mission

The issues being addressed here, of course, are not unique to psychology. They transcend academic disciplines and are the focus of such organizations as the American Association of Higher Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). Developing partnerships with these and other like organizations was a major focus of the Education Directorate under the leadership of Jill Reich, and remains so today.

One such initiative is just getting under way for us as a discipline, a three-year grant in collaboration with CGS and AAC&U, as well as several other disciplines, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Its title is "Shaping the preparation of future social science and humanities faculty: a preparing future faculty program," and it complements a similar initiative with disciplines in the physical sciences and mathematics, supported by the National Science Foundation. General descriptions of this initiative can be found at www.preparing-faculty.org/.

Information on the participation of psychology departments can be found on the Education Directorate web page at www.apa.org/ed/. Also, be alert to your academic listservs and to future issues of the APA Monitor. We invite your participation as colleagues responsible for preparing our future faculty. As a well-known professional football coach once proclaimed, "The future is now!"