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Prepping for the professoriate: quality mentoring during graduate school positively impacts career success for African-Americans pursuing the professoriate.

SINCE THE DOCTORAL EXPERIENCE IS THE FIRST STAGE OF A GRADUATE STUDENT'S ACADEMIC CAREER, one would think that they would be exposed to the types of skills and expectations that are likely to confront them on the job as new faculty. Unfortunately, due to the highly specialized forms of research that have dominated graduate education, the narrowness of the doctoral education curriculum may not meet the needs of colleges and universities that employ new Ph.D. faculty.

Professional development mentoring, for the professoriate, is a postsecondary tool that can be used by graduate faculty to complement graduate students' formal doctoral level course work with real-world problem solving and career counseling that informs them about the full range of faculty roles: teaching, research and service. Poor mentoring is one of the reasons that have been cited for the low representation of minority faculty in higher education. The absence of mentoring or the lack of availability of mentoring in an organization can have a significant impact on career success for African-Americans pursuing the professoriate.

Research into doctoral education emphasizes the importance of student-faculty relationships and the effects these relationships have on student satisfaction with the experience of obtaining a doctoral degree and their career choices. Therefore, professional development mentoring (PDM) is an approach that can be used by mentors as a training tool to provide mentees with opportunities for learning and feedback on experiences that will assist them in their professional growth and advancement.

PDM can be characterized as a developmental relationship involving knowledge acquisition, application and analytical reflection. The faculty mentor provides critical advice to the mentee by identifying experiences and opportunities that will contribute to the mentee's transition into the professoriate. Therefore, in preparation for the professoriate, it should be the goal of every graduate program to ensure that their students have the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant, develop a course with course syllabi and exams, review academic governance systems, interview faculty and administrators, mentor undergraduate students, serve on a campus committee as a representative for the department, as well as conduct, present and publish research.

Diversity in the professoriate is essential in higher education. It provides students with a cadre of diverse role models, assists in offering more effective mentoring to a varied student population, and gives minorities a greater voice in college and university governance. To avoid the perception that they lack the ability and qualifications to teach White students, African-American doctoral students entering the professoriate must gain experiences that will deem them "highly qualified" to educate a diverse student population.

Unlike K-12 educators who are required to be licensed to teach, doctoral students must seek opportunities to build their portfolio or curriculum vitae documenting their experiences relating to teaching, research and service. Hence, doctoral students who want a faculty career should have formal training in designing and implementing a course; integrating research activities into classroom activities; setting learning goals for students; understanding intellectual property rights; developing a line of research; writing proposals for funding; understanding the roles and responsibilities for institutional governance; understanding the tenure and promotion processes; mentoring undergraduate and graduate students; reviewing academic programs for cohesion and significance; and serving on committees in service to institutional goals.

The major problem affecting new Ph.D.s of all ethnicities is that they are rarely trained to be effective college or university faculty. College and university administrators can play a key role in developing faculty of color. One way is by incorporating mentoring in the criteria used to assess faculty performance since service to the university is used by many institutions for the purposes of promotion and tenure. Another way is by providing adequate funding for graduate professional development programs. Funds should also be available to provide mentoring training to graduate faculty who mentor graduate students.

Studying the impact of race and gender in mentoring relationships informs us as to who has access to mentoring, who acts as mentors and what types of functions the mentor provides. Race and gender have the ability to influence an individual's access to any type of mentoring relationship because these constructs tend to be deeply embedded in the structure of social institutions. Regardless of the race or gender of the faculty mentor and doctoral student, faculty who mentor doctoral students toward the professoriate should identify laudable opportunities that will assist them in becoming members of the professoriate.

--Dr. Crystal L. Joseph is the director of Expanding Horizons, a TRIO Student Support Services program, at Fitchburg State College. Dr. Patricia A. Green-Powell is interim associate dean for student affairs and associate professor in the College of Education at Florida A&M University.
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Title Annotation:last word
Author:Joseph, Crystal L.; Green-Powell, Patricia A.
Publication:Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 15, 2009
Words:772
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