Behind the Scenes of an Academic Career: Preparing Future Faculty

 April 25, 2014

Since I began working in The Graduate School in 2003, I have coordinated RCR ethics training, taught courses on college teaching & higher education, and had the privilege of directing the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program.  PFF is an annual, professional mentoring program for 25 advanced Ph.D. students and 5 postdocs at Duke who are mentored by faculty members from nearby partner colleges or universities: Durham Tech Community College, Elon University, Guilford College, Meredith College, and NC Central University.  PFF Fellows are those who want to learn about different types of academic institutions and the reality of faculty life and responsibilities at colleges beyond a research university.  You can find the list of PFF Fellows and their faculty mentors here.

While not a guaranteed teaching opportunity and not a funded ‘fellowship’ in the traditional sense, PFF offers a unique opportunity to get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ perspective on day-to-day life as a faculty member. PFF Fellows usually meet 2-3 times per month to shadow their faculty mentor, observe and discuss their teaching, attend department or committee meetings, observe student advising sessions, and usually guest teach in some way.  As a group, PFF Fellows attend half-day site visits to each of the 5 institutions to interact with students, faculty and administrators at each institution over panel discussions and dinners. I work with the PFF Advisory Board to choose themes for our campus visits that focus on aspects of the academic job search and/or unique aspects of being a faculty member at these diverse institutions.

A PFF Information Session will be held next Friday, May 2, from 3:00-4:30pm in Perkins Library, Room 217, and via Skype to Duke Marine Lab (contact Heather Heenehan for DUML room location).  I will provide an overview of the program and 3-4 current PFF Fellows will talk about their experience, lessons learned,  and other benefits of the program.  Please pre-register HERE if you plan to attend.  See our website for more details at /professional-development/programs/preparing-future-faculty.  Applications are due June 1 each year.  You can contact me at with any questions.

Dr. Doug James, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, oversees training in Responsible Conduct of Research, teaches courses on college teaching and higher education, directs the Preparing Future Faculty program, and conducts research on best practices in higher education.