Junior faculty resources expand

A peer-support group for science and engineering junior faculty members established in 2010 will soon expand to include young professors in other disciplines.

Valerie Horsley, the assistant professor in the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department who founded the group, said it is intended to strengthen a sense of community among young professors at the University and also serve as a forum where they can discuss issues such as teaching practices and the process for attaining tenure. About 20 of roughly 60 science and engineering junior faculty members regularly attended its lunch meetings last year, Horsley said.

“It takes a while to learn the rules of the game,” Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development, said. “You often hear [that] junior faculty … don’t know what the expectations are.”

This year, members will meet every month instead of every other month, Horsley said, and the group plans to bring in public relations experts to advise faculty on how best to publicize their work.

The group traces its origins to meetings between junior faculty in the Mollecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department. Horsley spread the idea to all science and engineering fields in September 2010 and now has plans to invite junior faculty members from social science and humanities departments to meetings beginning in January. As an effort to welcome faculty from all departments, the group will now hold its meetings at Silliman College rather than on Science Hill, said Christian Schlieker, an assistant professor in the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department who has attended meetings over the past year.

Schlieker and Maureen Long, another group member and an assistant professor of geology and geophysics, said the group helps members make the most of their early years as professors. In particular, Schlieker said, members learn how to take care of responsibilities not fully addressed in their formal education, such as administrative duties, grant writing and teaching techniques. He added that the increase in communication between junior faculty members has helped them avoid mistakes often made by young professors.

“Taking a position as a new assistant professor is a little bit of a daunting transition for anyone, but I have been happy with the support I’ve gotten from various mechanisms,” Long said. “And the group [Horsley] has put together is one of them.”

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Thomas Pollard, who is one of several administrators and senior faculty members who have met with the group, said the quality of mentoring at Yale largely depends on the commitment of senior faculty members rather than “the administration.”

The increased support for junior faculty at the University comes as the Provost’s Office also launched a new website last week, which provides information to help nontenured professors better understand the mentoring process. Rosenbluth said junior faculty and their senior faculty mentors should meet once or twice per semester so that mentors can help guide junior faculty through the tenure process and provide advice on how to approach their scholarly work.

There are currently 691 associate, assistant and full professors at Yale.

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