Continuing its mission of serving as a leader and mentor in the area of higher education, diversity and inclusiveness, Stony Brook University held its first Preparing Future Faculty Workshop, June 27 to 29, on campus.
The conference, organized through the efforts of the SBU Faculty Working Group inspired by the University’s 2016 Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity and the administration of Chief Diversity Officer Lee Bitsóí, attracted roughly 70 senior graduate students and early postdoctoral students from institutions as far away as Tuskegee University in Alabama, the University of Mississippi, Florida International University, Purdue University in Indiana and the University of Minnesota.
In all, students from a dozen universities attended. SBU sponsored the event with support from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Aspiring professors from around the country converged on the Hilton Garden Inn to gain insight as to what it takes to be well-rounded, creatively minded, impactful and progressive teachers ready to make a difference in the ever-changing world of higher education.
“It is more vital than ever that universities recruit, hire and cultivate the growth of young, diverse faculty,” said President Stanley, who initiated the University’s Diversity Plan, in his introductory remarks. “This is essential to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, which inspires learning and creativity. We saw a need to develop more programs that create pathways to faculty and leadership positions.”
The opening day panel featured faculty speakers in all stages of university tenure, including Africana Studies/History Assistant Professor Zebulon Miletsky (SBU); CUNY School of Medicine Assistant Professor Michelle Juarez, who did her graduate work here; Applied Mathematics and Statistics Associate Professor Tom MacCarthy (SBU); and Sociology/Africana Studies Associate Professor Crystal Fleming (SBU). They shared their postdoctoral and job search experiences and challenges with the student attendees, touching upon the topics of balancing family and career, racism, the multiple duties of being a professor, mentorship, being an international student, tenure departmental expectations, interactive teaching and networking.
Fleming recommended that students use a resource that was a “game changer” for her — the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, an independent professional development, training and mentoring community of more than 71,000 graduate students, postdocs and faculty members.
Miletsky offered up what he labeled the best advice he had received: “Go with your heart. You need to shine to get the job, shine to keep the job and shine to get tenure. It’s just like your dissertation. Choose something you love and you will get through this process,” he said.
Conference attendee Kimberly Bell, a postdoctoral associate at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, said she was “not totally unfamiliar with the conference topic,” citing that she had “been through one academic job search before for a primarily teaching position.”
She added, “One thing I took away was that you can’t wait for all the boxes to be checked. Apply for jobs you may not have every qualification for, even if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, be confident that you are a strong candidate because of your various experiences, and find strong mentors to push you and advocate for you.
“My parents did not go to college, much less grad school and postdoc, and I have no older siblings. I have had to figure a lot out on my own, but also have been able to find a mentor at each step of my career.”
The workshop included five additional sessions and panels, including SBU faculty representing different disciplines and stages of an academic career, presenters from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, the Center for Inclusive Education, the Career Center and the Office of the Vice President for Research. The panelists offered guidance on preparation for job interviews, suggested strategies for how to negotiate job offers and shared tips on how to write research proposals; start a research lab; mentor undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs; and engage with the institution.
“A desirable outcome is to recruit prospective faculty to SBU, but even if participants choose another institution, we will still consider our efforts to be successful because we will have revealed the University as a welcoming and inclusive place to initiate and develop a productive academic career,” said Carol Carter, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology who along with Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Stella Tsirka, a professor in the Department of Pharmacological Sciences, co-organized the event.
“As we continue our commitment to our faculty’s professional development, we plan on holding this conference and similar workshops on a recurring basis,” President Stanley said. “In addition to offering more professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities, we wanted to take it one step further by offering workshops that would encourage a new generation of educators.”