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Mace & Crown | July 26, 2017

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ODU Prepares Adjuncts, Future Faculty for the Classroom

ODU Prepares Adjuncts, Future Faculty for the Classroom
By David Thornton
News Editor

When the question of adjuncts and contingent faculty arises, a great deal of the discussion focuses on the working conditions and pay. But rarely does the issue of students, especially graduate students, who intend to pursue a career in academia, arise. Do programs exist to help these students succeed as contingent faculty, the most common first step in their careers?

“I’m here not only to support current adjuncts, but because statistics say that once I become a professor, as a woman… I’ll be resigned to adjunct work. And currently, adjuncts are paid lower wages for the same amount of work,” Rebekah Joyce, a graduate administrative assistant at ODU, said during the adjunct ring-in on Feb. 17.

Dr. Wie Yusuf is an associate professor of public service at ODU and the steering committee chair of Preparing Future Faculty (PFF), an organization at ODU that attempts to help graduate students transition into an academic career. PFF provides mentoring to graduate students on issues that they will face when teaching classes.

Many departments focus solely on subject matter when teaching graduate students, according to Yusuf. Potential future professors learn their respective fields comprehensively, and develop extensive research skills. But rarely do the individual departments teach the required skills to pass this knowledge along to others.

PFF attempts to fill in those gaps in graduate education. “There are different expectations. We try to broaden their horizons,” Yusuf said. They teach potential future faculty members teaching methods, how to navigate tenure, get a job, and how to handle ethical dilemmas, among other issues.

PFF conducts an annual survey of graduate student needs. At the top of that list are career planning, a balance between work and life, and help with teaching effectiveness. Towards this end, the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) offers workshops every year specifically for adjuncts, in addition to other services in order to help them become better teachers.

“Our main objective is to help them become better instructors in the classroom,” Joyce Armstrong, the assistant director for CLT, said.

When it comes to educating and improving techniques instructors use in the classroom, ODU seems to be fully invested. Caleb Magyar, an adjunct professor and advocate at ODU, agreed, saying that the teaching workshops do a good job at this task.

However, there seems to be a hole in the services ODU provides for adjuncts and contingent faculty. These programs are all focused around improving teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom, essentially increasing the educational bang for ODU’s buck.

But there doesn’t seem to exist a program that advises either prospective or current faculty on dealing with adverse working conditions and low pay. Mentoring programs don’t prepare students for working at multiple institutions, living on food stamps, or paying off student loans while surviving on slightly more than minimum wage.

Magyar agreed that a program like this would be helpful to many contingent faculty members.  But “if anything like that exists, I’m unaware of it,” he said.