In a Climate of Change: CSD Professorate for the 21st Century
Replacing the Professorate: Perspectives from an
Undergraduate and Master's Degree Program
Lillian C. Larson, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
I was asked to speak on this topic as a representative of undergraduate and master's degree programs. To provide a frame of reference for my comments, which by the way, are simply that, my own personal observations about this issue; let me tell you that I am program director and department chair of a program with 80 undergraduate and 30 graduate students in speech-language pathology combined with special education and situated in a College of Education.
Kim and I are not going to overwhelm or bore you with lots of data this morning about the statistics related to this issue. When necessary, all of us can refer to the 1996-97 national survey results. For a broader perspective, I refer you to the November 21, 1997 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, where figures from the National Research Council's annual survey are presented. The headline indicated the number of minority Ph.D.'s reached an all-time high in 1996. I also agree with the suggestions made by Ann Smit at the 1996 Council meeting for attracting doctoral personnel. She urged us to plant seeds constantly, grow our own and import individuals from other fields and important scientists who hold a Ph.D. in other disciplines.
Now, let me share with you some of my thoughts about the recruitment of students at the undergraduate and master's degree level who we want to consider seeking faculty positions and encourage them to at least consider higher education among their workplace options. The bases for these ideas are derived from (1) my own experiential background, (2) current activities that I'm engaged in, and (3) input from my colleagues at UNK.
First, we need to realize the powerful potential of ourselves serving as mentors and role-models. Please bear with me as I share several examples from my own professional career. Let me first explain that at each level of my higher education experience, I was the highest level student which means that a bachelor's degree was the top degree where I received my undergraduate education, a master's degree was the highest degree at the institution granting my M.S. and so on. My reason for mentioning this is to make the point that I wasn't exposed to students pursuing other degree options during each phase of my training. However, I did receive significant encouragement from my instructors. While an undergraduate student at a small liberal arts college in Illinois, I received a powerful message about professional commitment and involvement from my supervisor/instructor, who drove a station wagon all the way to Pennsylvania so that the other officers of our student organization and I could attend the special anniversary convention of Sigma Alpha Eta, which preceded NSSLHA. I can still remember how I was inspired by the banquet speech given by Dr. Eugene McDonald. That experience had a powerful positive impact on me.
Skipping ahead several years, a year after graduating with my M.S. degree, I received a phone call from a former teacher who told me about a new doctoral program in clinical supervision at Indiana University. I am forever grateful to that instructor for contacting me and encouraging me to pursue a new direction in my professional career.
I suspect that most of you have had similar experiences in which you received encouragement from your teachers. We have numerous opportunities on a daily basis to encourage and motivate our students. Hopefully, we do not let external pressures and demands on our time prevent us from spending time and having conversations with those students who show promise as future researchers, supervisors, and educators.
Here are several specific examples of what we can and also what I believe we should do:
1 -- Start our recruitment efforts early.
By that I mean, mention the university as one of the possible employment settings when you're meeting with that high school senior and his parents in your office during their visit to your campus. Discuss opportunities for conducting research and provide a few examples. Show them the labs as part of your tour or better yet involve current students in this activity. Also, give research assistants a chance to talk about their own involvement in research.
2 -- Involve students in research activities. Include both undergraduate and graduate students.
As most of you probably know, national conferences are held annually giving undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to present their original research projects. Assist students in applying for research funding. The old saying that "nothing succeeds like success" seems to apply here. When students see other students getting excited about research and seek and receive funding, more will become "hooked" on these experiences.
At UNK we are investigating the communicative development in multiple birth children. We have finished studying a set of quadruplets that we followed over a period of five years and currently we're following three sets of triplets. Conducting longitudinal research like this involves all of the faculty and provides a wonderful opportunity to involve many graduate students in research. This project also serves as a powerful recruitment tool in attracting students interested in research to our program.
3 -- Be sensitive to the messages our students are sending us.
Earlier this week our faculty met to select student scholarship winners. The application form requires a brief statement of career goals. Pay attention to that section and follow-up with those students who mention pursuing a doctorate.
Also, as part of our application for acceptance into our master's degree program, students submit a brief autobiographical essay. This provides another opportunity for us to make note of any references to anticipated doctoral education and provide guidance and encouragement.
4 -- Include references to tasks, functions, and responsibilities of faculty in your department's classes on professional issues.
I am quite certain that the instructor of that class devotes some time to differentiating between educational and clinical work settings. But do they discuss, for example, a day in the life of a speech or hearing scientist or the joys and tribulations of being a department chair? Think back for a moment. How realistic were your own expectations before you joined the world of academia? Now please don't think I've lost all touch with reality by making these suggestions. I am serious when I do suggest that our students need to have a better understanding of what we do before they dismiss any consideration of entering academia due to our failure to inform adequately.
For those of you in doctoral programs, how well do you prepare your doctoral students for their future faculty positions? In my estimation, we do a better job of preparing researchers than we do at educating adults on how to teach adult learners. I'll repeat that so it can sink in. We do a better job of preparing researchers than we do at educating adults on how to teach adult learners.
Finally, who among us believes we were prepared to assume the varied roles and perform the myriad tasks associated with being an administrator? There's a reason that the session on New Chairs is popular and included year after year at this conference.
5 -- Provide opportunities for students to visualize themselves in varied roles in the future.
Particularly in the area of clinical supervision, I encourage students to picture themselves as future supervisors and tell them they will not always be the ones who are being supervised. I also tell my students about the successful accomplishments of some of my former students. One example is a speech-language pathologist who has published several books that I use in my classes and encourage students to purchase as study guides. We need to help them look beyond their current roles as students and encourage them to think big.
Up to this point in my comments, you may be thinking that these suggestions are OK and possibly might even be useful. But I want to be challenged by some more radical ideas. So here goes:
What if we would change our ways of thinking about who should become our replacements? Kim will mention the need to become more inclusive in our acceptance criteria while also becoming more diverse in terms of minority populations.
Here's another suggestion. What do you think would happen if we recruited some doctoral level practitioners to join our departments as part-time faculty? Programs may already employ adjunct instructors on an as needed basis, for example, while trying to fill full-time positions. But what I'm suggesting we consider is intentionally recruiting such individuals to join our programs. I realize that universities have requirements for part-time or adjunct faculty and graduate faculty status positions, but let's not give up before we consider the possibilities. It is possible that there may be some qualified individuals who would be delighted and honored to be asked to teach a class or two at your university. Now let's assume, for the moment, that you're successful in securing a temporary appointment for them. Next, to take this idea one step further, let me suggest that the arrangement ends up being successful for your program and the individual. Perhaps the person will want to teach more and eventually will join you in a full-time position. I think this scenario could also work in a transition situation as a full-time professor approaches retirement. As part of the process, the experienced faculty could mentor the new faculty.
Another advantage to mention when recruiting such individuals is flexible scheduling. Those of you who know me personally are aware that I love to travel. As such, I travel throughout the world during breaks between semesters and summer sessions. So the point about more flexible schedules which is made regarding educational (K-12) settings vs. clinical settings can also include post secondary educational settings. When my students and other colleagues comment and are envious about my traveling opportunities, I mention that it is an advantage of working at a university. We also have opportunities for sabbaticals and various fellowships.
In conclusion, I have appreciated the opportunity to share my personal thoughts with you this morning. We face exciting challenges in the years ahead, but collectively and individually, we have opportunities to take action and ensure a bright future for our students and the students that they, in turn, will teach. Thank you!
More minority Ph.D.'s. (November 21, 1997) The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Petrosino, L., Lieberman, R.J., & McNeil, M.R. (1997). National Survey of Undergraduate and Graduate Programs. Minneapolis, MN: Council of Graduate Programs in Communicative Sciences and Disorders.
Smit, A.B. (1996) How do we attract doctoral personnel? Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Conference on Graduate Education. Minneapolis, MN: Council of Graduate Programs in Communicative Sciences and Disorders.