Seventeen new faculty members have been recognized for completing the University’s inaugural New Faculty Academy (NFA). The Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) designed this year-long series of professional development, networking and mentoring workshops to help first-year faculty launch their careers at USC on a positive, productive trajectory.
Lacy Ford, senior vice provost and dean of graduate studies, said, “The Office of the Provost and its active partner in the venture, the CTE, are both thrilled with the success of New Faculty Academy, the new faculty development program effort designed to acclimate new faculty to the nuances of teaching, scholarship, service and campus life generally. USC owes it to its talented new faculty to integrate them as fully into their new roles as faculty and into the joys and challenges of campus life as quickly as possible. The NFA makes a major contribution to this effort.”
New Faculty Academy was kicked off by a half-day of workshops at New Faculty Orientation in August 2015. Attendees had a choice of highly rated sessions covering teaching, campus technology and other topics useful to new faculty. Christy Friend, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, said, “We were excited that so many senior faculty and administrators were eager to help with the program as guest speakers, discussion moderators, and informal mentors. Many of the participants have told us that they feel they now have a network of colleagues and acquaintances all across campus as a result of NFA—and that’s wonderful to hear.”
Throughout the year monthly breakfast sessions gave new faculty opportunities to network with top administrators and other new faculty members while learning more about the university. Topics included the tenure process, research opportunities, undergraduate initiatives, work-life balance, academic branding and how to be more productive.
New Faculty Academy Networking Led to ASPIRE Grant
The opportunities for networking proved most fruitful for Amir Karami, assistant professor, School of Library and Information Science. Karami said, “I started to participate in the training sessions during and after the New Faculty Orientation. These sessions were great. I learned about effective teaching strategies, developing research and a scholarly reputation, and how to achieve a balance between service and research or teaching. These sessions encouraged me to participate in other training sessions in the CTE and the Office of the Vice President for Research, Research and Grant Development, and to read related papers and books.”
Like many other NFA participants, Karami made new friends and made connections across the university. “I found my first Co-PI in the Academy and wrote my first and successful grant proposal for the 2015 SC Floods Research Initiative in Oct 2015. Based on the research development and networking skills that I learned from the training sessions, I submitted another successful grant proposal for ASPIRE I that was a collaboration between my school, the School of Library and Information Science, and the School of Medicine. Now, we are working on some publications and external funding proposals in 2016-2017,” said Karami.
“I think the first and biggest benefit of the academy sessions is to let new (especially junior) faculty know that the required skills can be learned in a short period of time to be more effective and efficient,” Karami continued. “The second one is networking for possible research collaboration(s). And the last one is to encourage faculty to learn more and more.”
An “Aha” Moment for an Experienced Professor
Laura Smith, Hearst Visiting Professor of Journalism, said that she benefited from NFA even though she is far from being new at teaching or new to USC. Smith, who has 15 years of experience teaching at a university, including a few years at USC (2004-2007), said, “I came to NFA to keep learning and to learn more ways to do things better. It seemed the idea was to give faculty members a broad view of an assortment of things they might want to know about. I liked the broad range of topics and getting exposure to people who are doing different things across campus.”
She particularly enjoyed Oktoberbest. “It was an explosion of knowledge. In the middle of attending it I came up with some solutions to some challenges I was having in my teaching. I was contemplating how I was going to do something in a particular class, when suddenly I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. I thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to do!’” Smith said.
The solution was a better way to review end-of-course materials for a class using the Museum Walk method instead of “…me standing up with a PowerPoint,” Smith said. “I think it was very successful. I’m consistently doing new things. Oktoberbest was a perfect example of a learning opportunity that resulted in me walking away with a solution that fit with my teaching style.”
In thinking back over the whole year, Smith said, “NFA is absolutely worth new faculty member’s time even if a particular topic might not seem like something to invest their time in, there’s the networking opportunity. I now know faculty from across campus. Those personal connections go a long way in a big institution.
“One thing that was really nice with NFA was the opportunity to engage with pedagogy and people who do pedagogy. The active teaching strategies for teaching millennial students and how to get them to engage was all very helpful, too,” Smith said. “The breakfasts were lovely, too. My favorite was the cheese grits.”
Faculty new to USC in Fall 2016 will be invited to participate in New Faculty Academy throughout the coming year.