NextProf workshop recruits minorities to consider academia9/26/2012
Last week, the NextProf workshop brought 53 PhD students and recent doctoral graduates and 20 presenters from around the US together at U-M to help diversify engineering academia. It was the first in a series of workshops designed to encourage women and underrepresented minorities to pursue careers as professors and help them succeed.
NextProf, held September 19th through 21st, sought out participants from underrepresented ethnic minorities such as African, Hispanic, or Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and Alaskan Natives, while next year’s workshop will focus on women. Alec Gallimore, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education in the College of Engineering (CoE), describes the workshop’s goals as threefold: to identify individuals who may be interested in becoming professors, show them a “birds-eye view” of academic life, and also give them knowledge and a network to facilitate their success.
“From a research and creativity view, diversity is important because different people bring different ideas,” said Jack Hu, the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for CoE. “Second, we need faculty that reflect our student population so that we have role models for the students.”
The CoE Dean’s Advisory Committee on Faculty Diversity came up with NextProf to help address the problem at the level of faculty recruitment.
Robert Scott (BSE CE ’75), Director of the Center for Engineering Diversity and Outreach and Professor Gallimore gathered a team of faculty and staff from around the college to organize and put on the 2.5-day workshop. Many of the faculty presenters they invited hold leadership roles in their institutions. A few of the headliners included Dr. Lance Collins, Dean of Engineering at Cornell University, Dr. Keith Hargrove, Dean of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science at Tennessee State University, and Dr. Kerry Ann Rockquemore, President and CEO of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.
The presenters candidly discussed the rewards and challenges of life as a professor, but they also talked about what universities look for in prospective faculty, how to develop a teaching philosophy, and how to build a research program. “The point was to demystify the process of how you go into academia, including why it’s an honored profession and why it’s hard,” said Scott.
“The participants will be much better equipped to make an informed decision whether to go into academia, and they will be in a much better position to submit competitive material and interview well,” said Professor Gallimore.
Because of the high interest, the committee had to pare down the list of over 120 applicants. “The participants were extraordinarily distinguished,” said Professor Gallimore. “They came from the best universities in the nation, had strong publication records, and are working on some of the most cutting-edge research in engineering today.”
“We’ve certainly created a tight network [of potential faculty candidates] that can look to each other for help,” said Scott. The workshop organizers intend to start a Facebook group for NextProf to help the participants keep in contact with one another and with faculty mentors.
"The students left incredibly impressed with the workshop," said David Munson, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. "Michigan is showing a lot of leadership in this area."
About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of more than 75,000 spans the globe.