Lawrence University Launches New Initiative to Prepare Ph.D.s for Undergraduate Teaching Careers

A newly created program designed to provide recent Ph.D. recipients with mentoring relationships, teaching opportunities and research collaborations to better prepare them for professorial careers at selective liberal arts colleges is being launched by Lawrence University.

The Lawrence Fellows in the Liberal Arts and Sciences program will begin at the start of the 2005-2006 academic year. Eight fellows, with interests ranging from musicology to molecular systematics, have been named the program’s initial appointments.
The eight fellows were selected from a pool of more than 240 applicants, who pursued their doctorate or terminal degree at top-ranked research institutions in the United States, as well as Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The Lawrence Fellows in the Liberal Arts and Sciences program is designed to help bridge the divide between graduate work at prestigious research universities – which is often narrowly focused – and the breadth of perspective that is characteristic of successful undergraduate liberal education.

“There clearly is a critical need in higher education to work toward better preparation of the next generation of academics for careers as faculty members,” said Lawrence University President Jill Beck. “Liberal arts colleges have a unique contribution to make in that regard and have, I believe, a responsibility to share with young scholars what are widely seen as some of the best practices in undergraduate education.”

The disconnect between advanced study at the nation’s leading research universities and the realities of college teaching, especially at the undergraduate level, has been a long-standing concern within higher education circles.

In 1993, the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools launched the Preparing Future Faculty Initiative to address the problem at its source, by encouraging graduate schools to better align graduate education with the actual expectations placed upon new faculty entering higher education. PFF was premised on the belief, as founding director Jerry Gaff put it, that “knowing a specialization and how to conduct research is a necessary but not sufficient condition to get a job as a faculty member and to do it well.”

In reviewing nearly a decade of the PFF initiative’s work, AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider, writing in the summer 2002 issue of Liberal Education, concluded that while there had been some “halting yet tangible” progress … “overall, however, most graduate departments remain firmly unengaged with the educational challenges that confront a changing academy, and, by extension, a new generation of campus faculty.”

The program is distinctive not only in its location — at a nationally ranked liberal arts college — but also in its size and scope. It features an institution-wide commitment and the support and engagement of a broad spectrum of faculty across the breath of the college’s 32 academic departments. And as the program becomes fully established, it will expand from its initial eight appointments to as many as 20 fellows in residence throughout the college in any given academic year.

Lawrence fellows will receive two-year appointments with reduced teaching assignments so that they may engage in tutorials and research projects with undergraduate students. Mentoring relationships with senior Lawrence faculty and among the fellows themselves will be encouraged, as will opportunities for teaching and research collaborations. The program is also designed to increase access to current research methods and topics for Lawrence’s students and faculty.

“In crafting the Lawrence fellows program, we have concentrated on meeting the professional development needs of future faculty,” said Beck. “When the fellows complete their appointments, we fully expect that they will be well prepared as teachers and colleagues to excel in the type of highly individualized instruction that is a hallmark of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges.”
As the job market for new Ph.D.s has tightened, the challenges facing those aspiring to academic careers have grown. Those fortunate enough to land a tenure-track appointment are often ill prepared for the competing demands they face in balancing research or creative productivity with teaching excellence.

While postdoctoral appointments in the sciences have traditionally been available to assist in the transition from graduate degree programs, rarely have these positions focused on the teaching aspects of career development, particularly teaching that is allied with undergraduate research.

“We feel Lawrence is a perfect place for recent Ph.D.s to observe and gain valuable experience in strong teaching and prepare for the next stage in their careers,” said Beck. “Lawrence has an unusually high level of one-on-one learning between students and faculty, through tutorials, independent study offerings, and faculty-student research and artistic collaboration. In the sciences, our faculty emphasize individual ‘hands on,’ laboratory-rich learning experiences at even the introductory levels.

“Such educational practices are valued throughout the liberal arts college sector,” added Beck. “I am confident that, when the fellows complete their time at Lawrence, they will have acquired both the skills and professional perspectives that will lead to highly successful undergraduate teaching careers at peer institutions across the nation.”

“The postdoctoral fellowship program will provide Lawrence with a flexible and adaptive means for enhancing, renewing, and expanding both the curriculum and individualized student learning opportunities,” said Professor of Psychology Peter Glick, who will serve as the program’s director. “This is truly one of those situations where everyone will benefit — the students, the faculty and the postdoctoral fellows.”

Lawrence University, located in Appleton, Wisconsin, is a highly selective undergraduate college of the liberal arts and sciences with a conservatory of music. Founded in 1847 and committed to providing an undergraduate education in the liberal tradition, Lawrence has an enrollment of 1,350 students from 48 states and 49 countries.

The Lawrence Fellows in the Liberal Arts and Sciences

Daniel G. Barolsky
Ph.D., Music History and Theory, University of Chicago (expected August, 2005)
Interests: Musicology; the relationship between performance and the history and aesthetics of music; music criticism and analysis
Placement: Conservatory of Music

Melanie Boyd
Ph.D., English and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
Interests: Theories of gender, race, and sexuality; literary criticism; representations of violence and political identity
Placement: Gender Studies Program

Deanna G. Pranke Byrnes
Ph.D., Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Interests: Evolution and speciation of vertebrates; island and tropical ecology; the use of molecular tools in the study of ecology and evolution
Placement: Department of Biology

Jennifer Fitzgerald
Ph.D., Music Composition, Duke University
Interests: Music composition; women and music; discourses of race in music; multimedia collaborations
Placement: Conservatory of Music

Jennifer J. Keefe
Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Aberdeen (expected July, 2005)
Interests: History of philosophy, especially 18th and 19th century; British Idealism; Scottish Philosophy; the relationship between Realism and Idealism
Placement: Department of Philosophy

Joan Marler
Ph.D., Physics, University of California-San Diego
Interests: Low-energy positron atomic physics; ionization of noble gas atoms
Placement: Department of Physics

David Sunderlin
Ph.D., Geology/Paleontology, University of Chicago (expected June, 2005)
Interests: Paleobiology; paleoclimatology; tectonics; environmental change
Placement: Department of Geology

Annette Thornton
Ph.D., Theatre, University of Colorado-Boulder
Interests: Mime and movement; musical theatre and opera; women’s studies and history
Placement: Department of Theatre Arts