During the AERA 2015 conference in April, I attended the Division C New Faculty Mentoring Program. I had attended a mentoring program in the past at AECT 2012. The AECT 2012 mentoring program was a two-day seminar with three mentors who volunteered their time to provide advance graduate students and new faculty with words of wisdom and practical advice for the tenure track journey. It was also great for networking. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Sandy I was not able to catch my initial flight from Norfolk, VA (where I was living at that time) to Louisville, KY (where AECT was having the conference). My flight was delayed an entire day, this meant I was not able to attend in person the first day of the mentoring program. Instead, I joined the discussing via Google Hangout but it was not the same. I was relaying on hotel conference room wi-fi which was “okay.” Also, it was hard to be part of the conversation because it was not something the organizers were expecting. I did manage to join the conversation the second day of the mentoring program at AECT 2012 [Sorry, that was my “blast from the past” portion of this post].
Back to AERA 2015: This year during the mentoring program at AERA15, the organizers [Gwen & Rayne] emailed us in advance the program with the different sessions and speakers. I was thrilled about the sessions and excited to meet my cohort. We were a very diverse group based on our universities and our cultural/regional backgrounds. The first day of the mentoring program we all provided a brief introduction of ourselves and what we hoped to get out the program. Then, worked on an exercise about our identities, which by the way was very difficult to write. I mean — How often do you think about your identity (in your community, your institution, your department, and your field)? We also had various sessions related to grants and external funding opportunities. We talked to faculty members that have in the past successfully acquired grant funding. They definitely shared some insight into grant writing, selecting a collaborator, what happens after you get a grant, and myths about grants/external funding. The best advice we got (from my perspective) was to have a good budget, have a great idea, select a collaborator that you want to interact with on a very regular basis, and polish your project management skills. We also had a session with two program officials. One from the National Science Foundation and one from the Spencer Foundation. This was just amazing because they shared some of the programs that their institutions offer to new faculty (at least within the first five years of appointment). One of the best recommendations given to us by the NSF program officer was to volunteer as a reviewer.
One of the most interactive sessions was definitely the session related to teaching. We had a speaker from the Center for Teaching and Learning at Penn State University who talked about strategies we should consider, the amount of time we spend preparing our courses, evaluations, resources our universities provide, and other related topics. One of the highlights of this session was that we were sitting in different tables (about 4 new faculty members in each table) and we were sharing our information with two teaching mentors per table. This mentors were individuals in field that are well known for their teaching. This is pretty unique. We often hear about research mentors but we rarely hear about teaching mentors. It was nice to have the small group discussion with our colleagues and the teaching mentors.
We also had a discussion session with faculty members who have been publishing for over 30 years and gratefully shared some much needed wisdom on putting together your research agenda (post on this coming soon), writing habits, submitting to peer review journals (and re-submitting, revising, getting rejected), and just been scholars in our field. I loved the informal environment of this discussion. It was more than anything a Q & A session.
Of course, we spend the two day program with Gwen and Rayne who not only organized all the sessions, the speakers, our delicious dinner, and happy hour but also provided their own wisdom and experience. Thank you ladies for your work and dedication. BTW — Gwen will be the main organizer of the NFMP next year so make sure to check in November and December for an email from Division C. If you are a new faculty member, this program will be very refreshing, eye opening, and definitely worth your time/energy. As a cohort, we have managed to stay connect (I know it has been less than a month since we met). We took steps to ensure we can reach out to each other if we have questions or need feedback or are struggling with an issue — you get the point. To help us stay in touch we started our social media group and we are currently working on starting a writing group.
Last, thank you to the AERA Division C for their commitment to their members!