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Preparing Future Faculty Program Hosts Alumni

On November 15, 2010, the annual Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program led by Doug James, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs in The Graduate School, held a dinner for 30 current Duke PFF Fellows and their respective Faculty Mentors from five “Partner Institutions:” Durham Technical Community College, Elon University, Guilford College, Meredith College, and North Carolina Central University. The program featured three recent Duke PFF alumni who shared their successes in navigating the career path as junior faculty: Christy Fleet (Ph.D., Biology, 2001), Assistant Professor of Biology at Emory & Henry College (Virginia); Todd Lookingbill (Ph.D., Ecology, 2003), Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment at the University of Richmond (Virginia); and Cybelle McFadden (Ph.D., Romance Studies, 2005), Assistant Professor of French and a faculty member with the Women’s and Gender Studies program at UNC Greensboro (North Carolina).

Dr. McFadden’s research and teaching interests focus on twentieth-century French literature, film and media studies, and gender and popular culture. She talked about some of the valuable lessons learned from PFF, such as how to be strategic in choosing courses to teach that support her research (and tenure) goals, how to speak in very specific ways during interviews about how you would teach courses, and about the value of being part of a professional network. Dr. Fleet’s research and teaching interests include genetics, genomics, and molecular biology. She spoke about the importance of learning how to teach a lab, how to play a role during faculty meetings, and how to recognize the value of teaching in your area of specialization. Dr. Lookingbill’s research and teaching interests include landscape ecology, physical geography, protected areas management, and natural resource monitoring. He noted the importance of being taught about project-based learning in the classroom by his PFF mentor, Dr. Janet MacFall at Elon. He promotes active learning in the undergraduate classroom and involves students in field research on the James River to identify issues in landscape ecology and environmental management.

The PFF program began in 1990 with support from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). The purpose of PFF is to prepare graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for the wide range of roles and responsibilities expected of new faculty. Each PFF Fellow meets regularly with a Faculty Mentor from a nearby college or university to learn about the realities of faculty life at different types of institutions. Mentors invite PFF Fellows to faculty or department meetings, involve them in classroom teaching as possible, and include them in undergraduate advising. As a group, PFF Fellows attend site visits to all five Partner Institutions during the year where they meet with undergraduates, hear from junior and senior faculty panels, interact with administrators, learn about institutional governance, and discuss practical strategies for success in the academic job search. Members of the PFF Advisory Board (faculty and administrators from nearby Partner Institutions) help to locate Faculty Mentors, to plan annual site visits, and to engage in program review. An Information Session will be offered in the Spring, and the deadline to apply is June 1. See the PFF website at: