PREPARING FUTURE FACULTY PROJECT EXPOSES STUDENTS TO LIFE AT LIBERAL ARTS INSTITUTIONS
The environment of a major research institutioneven a student-centered one like Syracuse Universityis very different from that of a liberal arts or community college. A number of SU graduate students will no doubt seek faculty positions at such schools, and may find themselves in strange territory. The experience could be extremely uncomfortable, or worse, threaten their chances for success.
Enter the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) project, which brings together faculty members and graduate students from SU and five partner institutions: Colgate University, Hamilton College, Le Moyne College, Onondaga Community College, and the State University of New York College at Oswego. "Many graduate students will earn doctoral degrees and move into faculty positions," says Stacy Lane Tice, assistant dean of the Graduate School. "PFF gives graduate students the opportunity to learn about faculty life at an institution different from Syracuse, in the hope of broadening their options and helping their decision making when it's time to look for a job."
PFF is a national initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and coordinated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools. Phase one of the project began in 1993. Tice says SU did not participate then because the Pew Charitable Trusts had already funded the University's Future Professoriate Project (FPP), which introduced three initiatives to prepare graduate students for teaching responsibilities: teaching associateships, faculty teaching mentor seminars, and the certificate in university teaching. SU joined phase two of PFF last year. "This gives Syracuse an opportunity to build on the Future Professoriate Project," Tice says. "It isn't replacing that effort. What this adds is the opportunity to learn about diverse institutions."
Three departmentsEnglish, mathematics, and political sciencewere involved in the first year of the PFF project. Work groups from each discipline met throughout the year to design programs that made sense for SU and were also of interest to the partner institutions. Faculty and graduate students visited each institution for discussions, workshops, lectures, and joint projects. For example, Ryan Petersen G'97, a member of the political science work group, gave a lecture at Onondaga Community College and taught a government course there last summer. He also "shadowed" OCC professor Nina Tamrowski and Hamilton College professor Rob Martin.
The project was expanded this year to include the departments of speech communication, history, and women's studies.
Tice says one of the things liberal arts schools look for in faculty members is an understanding of the structure and expectations of such institutions. Some only consider candidates who have prior liberal arts teaching experience or have attended a liberal arts institution. "This project allows our students to get that experience," she says.
WEB SITE PROVIDES RESEARCH TOPICS AND ANSWERS FOR THE NUTRITIONALLY CURIOUS
As the person behind the College for Human Development's web pages, doctoral student Joyce Merkel calls herself the "web diva." But this cyberspace specialist packs some of the web pages with a nutritional punch. In the fall of 1995, Merkel and nutrition and foodservice management professor Kim Dittus created CyberNutrition On-Line (http://chd.syr.edu/chd/CyberNutrition.html),an Internet question-and-answer nutrition web page. The site, which focuses on all aspects of food, nutrition, diet, and health, was designed as a learning tool for nutrition and foodservice management students.
The nutritionally curious submit e-mail questions ranging from requests for a great vegetarian dish to the effects of alcohol or osteoporosis. Dittus and Merkel then distribute these questions to students via e-mail. Each student has one week to research an answer, then Dittus and Merkel edit the answer to ensure a thorough and accurate explanation before it is e-mailed back to the person and posted on the web. "My goal is to give students the opportunity to answer general nutrition questions," Dittus says. "I want the web page to be a dual learning experience in terms of the technology of the web and nutrition."
Dittus encourages students to answer questions by researching the most current information, and advises them to search other web pages and medical journals before going to textbooks or the library. "I want the students to evaluate the information on the web," Dittus says. "There is so much testimonial information out there that students should know how to sift through it."
Senior nutrition major Kirsten White, who plans to become a registered dietitian, participated in an independent study course working on CyberNutrition. "It was really practical because I learned what people are thinking now about nutrition," White says. "It's one thing to talk to people who have a nutrition background, but to talk to people who don't have any idea about nutrition is fascinating."
| michael prinzo|
In a culture where educators are always looking for ways to provide their students with real-world experiences, CyberNutrition is the perfect solution. "Students truly appreciate it when they help another person," Merkel says. "It can be very rewarding, especially when people write back to say thank you."
Although student research is one aspect of the initiative, Dittus and Merkel also view CyberNutrition as a valuable reference guide. "We try to be balanced with our answers and stand behind the basic scientific published work," Dittus says.
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