Professional Development for Future Faculty


This web guide is designed as a resource for graduate students as they prepare for careers in the professoriate.  These materials highlight the wide range of faculty roles and responsibilities in three areas of focus: teaching and learning, professional development, and the world of the university.  This division is based on the framework of a program formerly hosted by the Center for Teaching and the Graduate School, the Future Faculty Preparation Program (F2P2).   The suggested activities and resources presented are offered to help you recognize, organize, and address your professional development needs in preparation for a faculty career.

Many of the resources listed on this page are provided by members of the Graduate Development Network (GDN) Collaborative, an informal network of faculty, administrators, and students at Vanderbilt that seeks to facilitate the awareness and use of the many programs that can help graduate students become productive and well-rounded scholars.

Focus #1: Teaching and Learning

Whether or not you have a teaching assistantship as a graduate or professional student or teach classes as a post-doc, if you anticipate a faculty career, then you will benefit from finding ways to develop and refine your teaching skills and to improve your understanding of how students learn.

Keep in mind that if you do have a teaching assistantship or teach classes, the kinds of teaching you'll be doing as a future faculty member may be different than the kinds of teaching you're doing now. For instance, you may just grade papers and hold office hours now, but in the future, you might be teaching your own classes. Look for ways to improve your teaching skills that anticipate the kinds of teaching you'll likely be doing in the future.

Suggested Activities

  • Participate in the Teaching Certificate Program offered by the Center for Teaching. The Teaching Certificate program has been designed to help Vanderbilt graduate students, professional students, and post-doctoral fellows develop and refine their teaching skills through three cycles of teaching activities, each consisting of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection phases. Participants who complete the program receive a Teaching Certificate from the Graduate School and the Center for Teaching.
  • The CFT also offers working groups on teaching and learning, small groups of people who commit to meet regularly to discuss a chosen topic, including groups on course design and on the scholarship of teaching and learning.
  • The CFT also offers a variety of consultation services including classroom observations, small group analyses (in which we gather mid-semester feedback from your students), and videotaping your teaching.
  • Also consider attending GradSTEP, the Graduate Student Teaching Event for Professional Development, a one-day conference on a variety of professional development topics offered by the CFT each January.
  • For a more in-depth exploration of your teaching skills and student learning, consider participating in the Teaching Certificate program, co-sponsored by the CFT and the Graduate School.
  • Several Vanderbilt departments and programs, such as History, Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies, offer graduate courses in university teaching. Such courses offer in-depth preparation for teaching and professional development as a future faculty within the discipline.
  • Arrange for a supervised teaching and reflection session with a faculty member. This should include an initial meeting with the faculty mentor to discuss your upcoming teaching event (e.g., leading a discussion session, teaching a lab, guest lecturing), as well as a debriefing meeting in which you and the faculty mentor discuss what went well, what could be improved, and what was gleaned from the experience.
  • Arrange to observe a faculty-taught class session in any department at Vanderbilt. After the observation, meet with the instructor to talk about his/her approaches to teaching. You might use these questions for interviewing faculty about their teaching to guide your post-observation discussion.
  • Teach! Your TA duties may provide sufficient teaching experience. If not, additional arrangements might be made. Possible alternatives include teaching a small portion of a course on an adjunct basis (at Vanderbilt or another institution), individual tutoring, facilitating review or help sessions, or other arrangements where the participant is actively engaged in a teaching-learning relationship with students. See our advice on approach teaching as a process of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection.
  • Facilitate a teaching and learning-based workshop or other session (e.g., brownbag lunch) for your department, the Center for Teaching, or another institution. See this workshop planning document for a checklist of questions to ask yourself as you plan your workshop.

Vanderbilt Resources

  • The Center for Teaching, naturally, is a key Vanderbilt resource for those interested in exploring teaching and learning issues.

  • See the CFT's collection of Teaching Guides for best practices, advice, and online resources on a variety of teaching topics.

  • The Graduate Development Network (GDN) Collaborative is an informal network of faculty, administrators, and students at Vanderbilt that seeks to facilitate the awareness and use of the many programs that can help graduate students students become productive and well-rounded scholars.

Other Resources


  • Thinking Beyond the Dissertation, David Perlmutter and Lance Porter, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2005
    An article from the Chronicle Careers department aimed at students planning to pursue careers in academia. The article emphasizes the importance of planning for the future while in graduate school, of seeing graduate school as a means rather than an end. The article provides 6 suggestions of things you should be doing while in graduate school to jump-start your academic career.
  • What they Don’t Teach You in Graduate School, Paul Gray and David Drew, Inside Higher Education, November 30, 2005 (the first of a 4 part series)
    Each year, Ph.D. candidates and young faculty members come into our offices and sheepishly ask us to tell them what they really need to know about building a career in academia. We usually take them to a long lunch at the Faculty House and give them the helpful hints that we share with you here. We start with tips for getting out of graduate school and into your first job. Subsequent pieces will offer tips for later stages of academic careers.


  • Authors Karen M. Sowers-Hoag, Dianne F. Harrison designed Finding an Academic Job (Surviving Graduate School) (Sage Publications, 1998) "to provide useful information and guidelines to doctoral students seeking their first academic appointments as full-time instructional faculty."
  • The Sista' Network, African-American Women Faculty Successfully Negotiating the Road to Tenure, by Tuesday L. Cooper (Jossey-Bass, 2006) is described by the publisher as "a qualitative inquiry into the lives and experiences of nine African-American women during various stages of the tenure process, this book partly explores general, practical considerations such as the tenure process; requirements for tenure; and negotiating the balance among teaching, research, service, and collegiality. Yet it delves further into the statistics of African-American women faculty in the academy; issues of isolation, mentoring, and networking; African-American women faculty and the tenure process; African-American feminist thought; and racism, sexism, and the politics of singularity."

The following books are available for check-out from the CFT Library.

  • Barbara Gross Davis describes her book, Tools for Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 1993), as "a compendium of classroom-tested strategies and suggestions designed to improve the teaching practices of all college instructors." Portions of her book are available online.

  • First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student's Guide to Teaching, by Anne Curzan and Lisa Damour (U of Michigan Press, 2000), is a resource written specifically for teaching assistants. See the CFT's review of this book, originally published in our newsletter in 2002.

  • For a summary of cognitive science research on learning, see How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition (National Academies Press, 2000), available online.

  • Ken Bain's book, What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2004), describes the results of a multi-year study of college professors who make lasting impact on their students. The book features interviews with and vignettes of these professors as well as discussion of their teaching philosophies and strategies. You can read an online excerpt of the book.

Also, as you consider positions at other institutions, find out what kind of support they have there for teaching. See this list of teaching centers worldwide.

Focus #2: Career Development

Being a faculty member involves landing a faculty position. Conducting an academic job search involves many components:

  • writing a CV,
  • summarizing your research interests and experiences,
  • drafting a teaching statement,
  • perhaps preparing a teaching portfolio,
  • networking at conferences, and
  • interviewing, among others.

The more you can prepare for these activities ahead of time, the more successful you're likely to be once you're on the job market.

Suggested Activities

  • Participate in Prof 101: Launching Successful Faculty Careers, a workshop held for Ph.D. students who plan to pursue careers in the professoriate. Sponsored by the Enhancing Graduate Education Initiative in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School in early February, the workshop explores the roles and responsibilities of new faculty members with the help of a variety of Vanderbilt professors and administrators, as well as former Vanderbilt graduate students who share their perspectives and expertise with attendees.
  • The Writing Studio is a free and confidential resource for all Vanderbilt University students, including graduate students. There you can meet with trained writing consultants to discuss any writing project for your graduate work—from conference and seminar papers to portions of your thesis or dissertation, job letters, grant applications or articles being prepared for publication.

Vanderbilt Resources

  • The Graduate Development Network (GDN) Collaborative is an informal network of faculty, administrators, and students at Vanderbilt that seeks to facilitate the awareness and use of the many programs that can help graduate students students become productive and well-rounded scholars.

Other Resources

The following books are available for check-out from the CFT Library located at 1114 19th Avenue South, 3rd Floor.

  • The Academic Job Search Handbook by Mary Morris Heiberger and Julia Miller Vick (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), offers insight on all aspects of the job-seeking process. The guide also provides samples of written materials such as teaching philosophies and vitas.

  • Tomorrow's Professor: Preparing for Careers in Science and Engineering by Richard M. Reis (Wiley-IEEE Press, 1997), offers career advice and faculty vignettes of interest to graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines.

  • The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career: A Portable Mentor for Scholars from Graduate School Through Tenure, by John A. Goldsmith, John Komlos, Penny Schine Gold (University of Chicago Press, 2001), is written as a dialog between three faculty colleagues from different disciplines comparing and contrasting their career experiences and advice.

  • The Academic's Handbook, edited by A. Leigh Deneef, Craufurd D. Goodwin, and Ellen Stern McCrate (Duke University Press, 1995), features essays on academic employment as well as the various roles faculty members fill, including teaching and advising and funding and publishing academic research.

Also, disciplinary journals often publish articles on searching for and obtaining faculty positions in particular disciplines. While the examples below may not be directly relevant to your discipline, they will provide you with examples of the kind of advice and information to seek out in your own discipline.

You'll also find news and advice on careers in higher education at the Chronicle of Higher Education's Careers web site. The CV Doctor is a particularly useful feature on this website, evaluating sample CV's submitted by readers. This year's collection includes three faculty CV's: one for a Ph.D. in the humanities, one in the physical sciences, and one in a field with significant online teaching. The CV of a department head looking to move up into academic administration is also included.

Focus #3: World of the University

In addition to understanding and developing teaching and research in your own discipline and department, it's important, as a new faculty member, to understand how a university works—e.g., faculty governance structures, roles and influence of various administrative roles, the role and relative weight of teaching, research and service (including civic engagement and community outreach), etc.

A Word About Faculty Service: The role of service in faculty responsibilities can vary among colleges and universities. At some schools, service plays a major role in the work of a professor, while at other institutions service constitutes a minor part of the traditional triad of "research-teaching-service."

Furthermore, how "service" gets accounted for can also vary. At some schools, service mainly consists of serving on department, college, or university committees. That is, service relates to the operation and functioning of the institution. At other schools, service also can include taking one’s scholarly expertise into the surrounding community. Often referred to as "civic engagement," this type of service connects academic work with community needs. "Service-learning" occurs when students in a course are involved in a civic project and the engagement activity reinforces concepts covered in the course. For some faculty, service to the profession can also play a major role in their overall responsibilities.

A few of the suggested activities listed below are intended to help you gain experience in serving in these various ways.

Suggested Activities

  • Consider interviewing one or more faculty members about their roles and responsibilties. You might use these sample interview questions to guide your discussion.

  • Interview an individual at Vanderbilt who holds an administrative position, such as a dean, a department chair, or a director of a unit. The objective is to gain a better understanding of the functioning of the university. See these administrative interview questions to guide your interview.

  • Make a contribution to the university outside of the normal teaching and research duties in your discipline. Examples of activities include working with student organizations, assisting an administrative unit, serving on a committee in a leadership role, addressing a departmental need, or arranging public forums on university-related issues.

  • Use your scholarly expertise in the surrounding community to meet a real community need. Examples include tutoring in literacy programs, volunteering to work with Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, talking about culture and language to community or school groups, speaking to a group about an area of scholarly religious expertise. Helpful sources of information to get ideas and to get connected with community groups include:

  • Contribute to your professional discipline by assuming a leadership role or serving on a committee in a professional organization.

Vanderbilt Resources

  • The Graduate Development Network (GDN) Collaborative is an informal network of faculty, administrators, and students at Vanderbilt that seeks to facilitate the awareness and use of the many programs that can help graduate students students become productive and well-rounded scholars.

  • Resources for Graduate Education: This Center for Teaching guide provides resources for department chairs, directors of graduate studies, graduate faculty, graduate deans, and others interested in the quality of graduate education. It addresses many of the topics listed above, but from the perspective of the faculty who teach graduate students instead of the graduate students themselves.

Other Resources


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