The topic of our Nov 2019 call was “your first year in an academic position”. We had a very productive call with participation from three mentors (thank you Ulrike Genschel, Beth Chance, and Alan Rossman!) and four mentees – all participants from PTT 2019, three of which are still finishing up their degree and actively looking for positions and the fourth who just started their first term as a new faculty member at a Liberal Arts College.
The main advice that came out of the conversation for faculty in their first year is that, despite being given materials for teaching, it will take most of us the majority of our time preparing for class during that very first time. This is especially true for creating your first homework assignments and assessments. The biggest hurdle to overcome in that context is not trying to be perfect and keeping healthy and realistic expectations.
Below we share more detailed notes from the discussion in Q&A format.
What should one expect during their first year as a faculty member?
Short answer - expect the unexpected!
- Lots of time spent prepping teaching material (twice what was expected).
- Creating assignments can take long – an entire day for an individual assignment is not out of the ordinary:
- It’s difficult to choose what to teach
- It takes time to learn about the dynamics of classes
- Materials supported by department / senior faculty can be helpful, but often need customization to feel like they’re your own.
- If teaching an existing course, there is usually a set course description one needs to follow, however flexibility to add/emphasize topics that you believe are important as well as flexibility to spend additional time where needed is important.
What are expectations of teaching positions that request/prefer experience with data science?
- Main suggestion is to look at what the department teaches and the descriptions of the courses and consider whether you would envision teaching those courses and which statistical languages you are comfortable teaching in.
- With many new data science degrees being developed, there are opportunities to get involved with shaping these degrees even in your first year as faculty.
As a new faculty, what else have you spent your time on?
- If you keep your door open, students will come!
- Department meetings
- Revisions to the major
- Creating the statistics/data science minor
- Decided to do no research for the first term and to instead focus on teaching
- Will start advising students during second year
- Prepping old courses is far less time intensive
- Doing independent study with a student during the winter term
- Always think about giving yourself a break
- Expect to serve on committees
- These are low loads for new faculty
- Possibility of serving on curriculum advisory committee(s)
- There is a long-term benefit to doing things for yourself!
- Make connections with other young faculty at a similar stage in their career
- Don’t try to do everything!
- You don’t need to teach the perfect course the first time!
- The first time, try to do a competent job.
- The second time, make improvements.
- The third time the course should be closer to what you’d ideally want.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself!
What are people’s experiences reaching out to companies for projects to use for undergraduate research or statistical consulting?
- Make use of the alumni association for connections to graduates of the university who have businesses in the area.
- Look into non-profit organizations in the area.
- Find a contact for the large companies in the area to begin conversations.
What are considerations to make when proposing a department “flip” a course which a large number of non-tenured faculty teach?
- Make sure you have buy-in from senior people in the department.
- Be empathetic on instructor’s time – they are likely teaching a large number of courses.
- Understand how much instructors are teaching and where – it is possible they are teaching at multiple colleges/universities.
- Support instructors by providing materials they can use in their classroom.
- Consider the client disciplines the course(s) service, and include faculty from those department(s) in the conversations.
- Invite instructors to contribute in the changes.
- Support suggestions with references from the literature.
- Make sure the process feel team oriented.
What advice do you have for faculty who are asked to teach one-time workshops (academic or industry focused)?
- It’s important to know what backgrounds your participants have.
- Understand what they expect to get out of the course.
- Communicate what is plausible for you to accomplish with the time you are given.
- Consider what your time is worth, especially as you begin/finish your dissertation.
Huge thanks to Ulrike Genschel for moderating and summarising the call. Our next call will be in January 2020, hope you join us then!