||Liberal Education, Summer 2002
Will Reforms Survive? Strategies
for Sustaining Preparing Future Faculty Programs
By Ann Ferren, Jerry G. Gaff, and Alma Clayton-Pedersen
At the outset of any new initiative, hopes are high that
the project will not only be successful but sustainable over
time. Those of us with years of experience with curricular
renewal and pedagogical reforms know just how difficult it
is to establish the credible process, effective leadership,
appropriate training, and continuing funding that is essential
to turn a "good idea" into "transformational change." With
the wisdom of previous experience, we planned the proposal
for the very first Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program
in the early 1990s to make sure that whatever campus initiatives
we supported would continue after the external funding ended.
All of the early planners were experienced administrators
of funded projects who knew that educational programs established
with the aid of grants often disappeared when the money did.
Anne Pruitt-Logan, the co-director of the PFF program at the
Council of Graduate Schools, and Jerry Gaff, the AAC&U co-director,
did not intend to direct a program that ended with a report
buried in some file. Nor did they want to begin a project
aimed at transforming graduate education and leave behind
only the good memories of participants that would soon fade.
Ellen Wert, the program officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts,
concurred, and thus we self-consciously developed a series
of strategies that would encourage the long term survival
of PFF programs.
Although it is not clear what time frame should be used as
an indicator of sustainability, after nearly ten years we
thought it would be safe to send out a team of skilled observers
of higher education to see if the kind of commitment and transformation
that might indicate real change would be evident to outsiders
who had neither initiated nor shepherded the projects. To
get this unbiased review, during Spring 2002, three observers
visited ten campuses. They interviewed directors, faculty,
graduate students, and faculty from cluster schools. They
read documents, reviewed syllabi, looked at portfolios, attended
training sessions, and visited cluster campuses. Although
each campus has a project tailored to the campus culture and
circumstances, the reviewers' reports provide insight into
the success of our overarching strategies.
Over and over, observers of significant initiatives point
to the leadership rather than the idea as the critical factor.
We could not choose the leader, but we did require that an
individual of some stature be responsible for the project.
Initially, many of those leaders were in the graduate office.
Over the years we noted that PFF seems to work better when
there is both strong centralized administrative leadership
and decentralized departmental leadership. When there is university-wide
administrative involvement, there is a greater likelihood
that synergies can be identified and leveraged to create resource
efficiencies, build broader faculty and staff support, and
advocate for the structural supports needed to facilitate
change. When a department has a sense of ownership for the
PFF program, it creates a more supportive environment for
student and faculty participants. Not surprisingly, programs
that appear to be most institutionalized have both a leader
and structural supports in place.
The campus evaluators noted that leadership is fragile over
time. In some cases, an individual who headed the program
for years continued to rise in the ranks and have so much
responsibility that the PFF program could no longer be a priority.
In other cases, the initial leadership had left the campus,
and the new director had quite different ideas about the program.
At least one cluster appeared to have few remnants of the
original program, and the campus visitor was dismayed that
such an investment appeared to have made no lasting difference.
Rather than lament that things do not stay the same, the lesson
we might learn for sustainability is that programs we value
should have succession planning as well as shared leadership
Involving graduate faculty
Our initial aim was to engage many graduate faculty directly
in the process of preparing their graduate students for academic
careers. After two grants from Pew for university-wide programs,
we observed that although graduate faculty were strong supporters
of PFF, they were few in number. We asked ourselves: How can
we involve more graduate faculty? Recognizing the disciplinary
allegiances of faculty, we decided to develop partnerships
with the disciplinary societies and enlist their aid in speaking
directly with their members about the value of PFF.
With support from the National Science Foundation we enlisted
professional societies in five disciplines-chemistry, computer
science, mathematics, physics, and biology (although there
was a change in the latter). A subsequent grant from the Atlantic
Philanthropies allowed us to partner with learned societies
in communication, English, history, political science, psychology,
and sociology. This strategy ultimately involved professional
societies in eleven disciplines, and those societies have
been highlighting PFF in their meetings and publications,
adding to the credibility and visibility of PFF to faculty
members and graduate students.
The evidence that this strategy has power was recognized
in the campus evaluations. In one instance a faculty member
said he had never heard of the program until he went to a
national meeting and was surprised to find that his campus
hosted a project. A new director traced his understanding
of the program to panel presentations at the annual meetings
of his discipline rather than from his own campus. Unfortunately,
in too many cases the program is seen as a "teaching" program
and still does not attract the attention of faculty with serious
We believed at the outset that research-focused campuses could
not fully understand the dimensions of preparing faculty for
a variety of other types of academic positions without partners
on other types of campuses. Thus, we required that each lead
campus establish relationships with institutions in different
higher education sectors-community colleges, liberal arts
colleges, masters institutions, public, and private. This
cluster model was developed and maintained in a variety of
ways both formal and informal. To achieve our goal of preparing
new faculty with sensitivity to undergraduate liberal learning
goals we believed we needed to broaden the vision of all participants
to see beyond the specialized research training in doctoral
Reports throughout the grant period noted that overwhelmingly,
both faculty groups perceived the benefits of the relationship
as reciprocal. The rewards of these cluster arrangements were
sufficient to keep cluster faculty willing to engage PFF activities
and host campus visits. The opportunity to work with graduate
students was compelling. Faculty at the Ph.D.-granting institutions,
however, were more likely to identify the interaction with
cluster institutions as a benefit to their graduate students
and less likely to indicate benefits to themselves or their
programs. The graduate students note that the biggest benefit
is that they have a greater appreciation of many types of
campuses when it comes time for their job search.
While faculty see the cluster relationships as positive,
their view of the benefits suggests that the effects of the
relationships may not be fully realized. The campus visitors
noted especially the way in which time and differing priorities
resulted in mixed effects. Duke University gives its partner
faculty access to the library and campus events through their
status as visiting scholars, yet few of the cluster faculty
take advantage of the opportunities. Another faculty member
explained that his campus no longer participated in PFF but
that they continued to "trade" faculty to enrich the curriculum
on their campus and that of the lead campus. Some benefits
are serendipitous. Several former participants in PFF who
take positions at nearby schools that are not formally in
the cluster ask to have their institution added so that they
can "pay back" the benefits they received or start programs
on their new campus. A faculty member at Carleton College
had the pleasure of mentoring a PFF student from the University
of Minnesota who had been her student at Carleton ten years
earlier. Perhaps the lesson in this is that there are simply
more opportunities than one can take advantage of, both in
our professional and our personal lives. The important aspect
is that barriers to collaboration have been reduced.
Because every idea is a good idea with someone else's money,
we required that universities match the amount of money they
received from the grant. In this way we hoped they would begin
to build support into the operating budget, thus making the
project less vulnerable to changes on campus. We determined
that such initial funding might make it easier and more likely
to continue supporting PFF after the grant ended.
Nearly ten years later the variations on support are many.
A few campuses have added little to the original budget. Others
have slowly integrated the project into a regular budget line.
At the other extreme, Howard University has invested in several
experienced doctoral students to staff the graduate office
and coordinate the program at the department level. Their
pride in the project is evident, their energy contagious to
others, but most important, PFF provides a return on that
investment in that it has become a significant selling point
in attracting highly qualified graduate students. In addition,
small grants are given to support faculty participation, and
travel funding is available to present papers at conferences.
Clearly, the lesson learned is that if the campus believes
there will be a return, it is easier to invest dollars and
We knew from past experience that, as much as one might think
that an incentive will change behavior, it is critically important
to invest first in developing the expected behavior. Thus
we decided to disallow certain approaches desired by applicants
and early participants that deviated from the program goals.
In particular, several graduate schools wanted to use the
PFF funds for graduate fellowships, and as valuable as supporting
graduate students would be, it would take only a few fellowships
to exhaust the entire grant. If PFF was to make a difference,
it could not be a program to fund graduate students but had
to be a program to aid their professional development.
A couple of universities in the first round awarded PFF graduate
students stipends from their own resources, and they wanted
to use them to support students' teaching at a partner institution.
Because these were campus funds, we were not able to control
their expenditure, but we did advise PFF program directors
against this practice on the grounds that it did not make
long term sense for a doctoral program to use its funds to
support graduate students to teach at another institution.
Nearly ten years later, although campuses differ in their
approaches, the professional development component of the
program is the most highly praised by the students. Faculty
who teach in the courses on higher education and participate
in workshops report that it has changed their pedagogy. Both
Duke University and the University of Minnesota have anchored
the PFF program in the Teaching and Learning Center and linked
PFF workshops and activities with other faculty development
priorities such as writing-across-the-curriculum and junior
faculty support. Perhaps the most important lesson for those
who plan to pursue an academic career is that professional
development in teaching and service, as well as research,
can and should be a part of their career goals.
Previous experience taught us that visibility, integration,
and recognition were critical to institutionalizing a program.
At PFF conferences we regularly scheduled sessions to share
ideas on institutionalizing PFF programs at the campus level.
In these panels, we featured the leaders who were making significant
progress and using different approaches. For example, the
University of Washington received a gift to the endowment,
and it was dedicated to PFF; graduate students and their mentors
were supported to work on educational projects. Howard University
included a professional development component in every grant
its graduate school received for education and training. The
University of Kentucky included PFF in its strategic plan,
and Arizona State University included PFF in its capital campaign
to provide for continuing support.
At the same time that we were encouraging campus support,
we recognized that we wanted PFF to become institutionalized
in the culture of graduate education nationwide. Thus our
programs at national conferences had a dual purpose. As a
condition of the Pew grant, we were required to submit periodic
progress reports. Rather than regarding these as routine bureaucratic
reports, we designed forms to elicit specific information
about the institutionalization of PFF programs. Then the responses
were circulated to the cluster coordinators, so that the entire
leadership of PFF was aware of the specific steps that all
were taking to institutionalize the programs. This created
collective consciousness of the importance of sustaining PFF
and of ways to achieve that. It also pointed to problems that
were bigger than any single program and made it possible for
us to develop publications and outreach activities to address
the national culture of graduate education.
As we look back over the years, not only are there a long
list of publications and presentations about the projects,
but also there are many graduate students and graduate faculty
whose vitae reflect their interest in faculty development,
undergraduate education, and academic careers. Our campus
evaluators noted the pride associated with these activities,
the PFF logo on campus publications, references in recruiting
materials-all indicators of recognition. At the same time,
they also observed that only a fraction of eligible faculty
and graduate students participate in the program. Clearly,
our hope of starting a "brushfire" that would spread has not
been fully realized.
In the original grant and successive phases, assessment was
a requirement. A series of program-wide assessments were conducted
to promote self-reflection about the effectiveness and sustainability
of PFF programs. The programs generated a vast array of assessment
models, and these were identified and shared widely throughout
the PFF network-and beyond. The assessment effort was designed
to help us learn about what did and did not work so that successive
grants could be stronger. Characterized by openness, this
sharing process allowed each cluster to learn the best ideas
from the others and to develop the strongest possible program
by borrowing from the others.
To the dismay of our evaluators, despite considerable advances
in assessment, the forms and types of data gathered tended
to be at the input level (e.g., how many workshops, how many
attendees) rather than at the outcome level (e.g., how well
did the graduate student teach, what job did the graduate
student take). Indeed, several programs said they should do
a follow up of their past participants but "just had not gotten
around to it."
The most revealing assessment was the professional portfolio
developed at the end of the program in preparation for the
job search. The graduate students looked back over their work
and reported amazement at how much they had changed. Faculty
participants noted they had not thought of their teaching
philosophy in such concrete terms.
Placement of graduates
The original conception of PFF was that it would ensure a
growing and capable group of graduate students interested
in academic careers. From the outset we "required" PFF grantees
to track their alumni and urged them to solicit their views
about the value of the PFF experience. As the projects developed,
it became clear that PFF participants are more sophisticated
about faculty life and institutional realities than their
peers without PFF experience. This has proved helpful to their
securing a job. PFF conferences featured PFF alumni, and many
campuses invite PFF alumni as a way to complete the feedback
loop to leaders of doctoral programs. The perspectives of
alumni, almost universally positive about the value of PFF
programs to new faculty, provide more justification for sustaining
these programs. Several departments and institutions discovered
that PFF is helpful in attracting talented students to graduate
programs. Recruitment and placement of students represent
"hard" strategic benefits of PFF programs that appeal to self-interest
and provide ways to navigate competitive market forces. These
can be central reasons for institutions to sustain their PFF
programs. Most Ph.D. programs, however, do a poor job of tracking
their graduates and obtaining feedback from them as a means
to improve their programs.
Our external evaluators could talk with some alumni but recognized
also that, even though the programs have been in place for
almost a decade, the total number of PFF participants who
have completed their Ph.D. is only a fraction of all new faculty.
One source of resistance to participation is the fear that
it will extend the time to degree. The doctoral students reported
exactly the opposite; the positive mentoring relationships
in the program and the exposure to academic life was energizing
and made them work harder. Indeed, the program serves as a
kind of support group for what is often a lonely process and
helped the graduate students understand the importance of
colleagues and mentors. If graduate programs adopted only
the principle of positive mentorship, they could accrue some
of the benefits of PFF.
From the outset, we knew that each program needed to be tailored
to the campus culture. We encouraged cluster leaders to adapt
PFF concepts to local conditions, so that Syracuse University,
for example, infuses PFF into its Project on the Future Professoriate
and at Duke University, the biology program is known as the
Teaching Certificate in Biology program. A flexible program
structure enables each cluster to be highly responsive to
local context and to make changes when program elements are
not working as planned. Program implementers have used the
PFF framework and adjusted program features to build on their
campus strengths for program purposes.
Our outside evaluators began each campus visit by reviewing
the initial proposal and the annual reports on the PFF projects.
The basic elements of each program were similar but the center
of gravity was shaped by the level of acceptance by the graduate
faculty on the campus. On some campuses, students were encouraged
to participate early in their program; others believed PFF
was more suitable just before completion of the program. Some
campuses emphasized department-based mentors; others encouraged
greater reliance on a faculty member from a cluster school.
Most interesting were the ways in which new initiatives on
the campus were linked to PFF; for example, integrating the
support for international TAs into PFF.
These several strategies were designed to assure that the
good work on PFF could continue after the grants end. When
asked how many of the ten universities visited were most likely
to continue their PFF programs over the next three years,
the evaluators said eight definitely would, one was uncertain,
and one possibly would not, in large part because of serious
funding cuts in the state. While not 100 percent successful,
these results tend to validate the strategies for sustainability.
While this article focuses on strategies to change the "culture
of preparation of college faculty," they can also inform the
work of any campus change initiative.
Ann S. Ferren is a senior fellow at AAC&U
and professor of educational studies at Radford University.
Jerry G. Gaff is senior scholar at AAC&U and co-director of
the Preparing Future Faculty program. Alma Clayton-Pedersen
is vice president for education and institutional renewal