The job of a college engineering faculty member is multifaceted. Faculty are not only expected to teach and conduct research but also to write proposals, consult, network, engage in administrative duties, and the list continues. The relative importance and time allocated to these different functions varies according to the nature and focus of the institution and the interests of the faculty. However, graduate students aspiring to careers in academe are not usually trained in the multiple facets of the profession. As a result, they often struggle to find ways to balance the parallel and many times competing demands of these functions. Literature on the early careers of junior faculty at research institutions evidences their struggles to find such balance, particularly when their interests deviate from the requirements of a tenure-track position.
This paper examines the professional development plans of engineering graduate students with an explicit interest in an academic career, as these plans are written and evolve throughout a three-credit graduate course at a large, research-intensive university. The overarching goal of this course, as stated on its syllabus, is to provide students with an opportunity to learn and practice the skills that complement and enhance classroom teaching and learning in a tenure-track faculty position , either at a research intensive university or at an institution that focuses on undergraduate engineering education . The research questions that orientate the study are: How do graduate students with different backgrounds and a common interest in academe conceive of the idea of balance in their future professional lives? How do their professional development plans reflect such conceptions?
The analysis of students’ professional development plans as qualitative artifacts reveals a wide variety of approaches to the role of faculty, focusing on different perspectives of it. Follow-up interviews with the students show that beneath these different approaches lies the idea of balance, evolved and transformed by the discussions and activities in the course.
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