Preparing to Begin Your Faculty Career
By Helen K. Ezell (adapted from
Guide to Success in Doctoral Study and Faculty Work
Preparations Before Arriving on Campus
Once you accept an offer of employment and sign a contract, your
work can begin. Generally, the more you prepare for your job prior
to arriving on campus, the faster your transition will proceed and,
consequently, the less overwhelmed you will feel. This section will
suggest some ways to get started.
Preparing to teach classes will probably be your most immediate
concern, especially if you have never taught before. Even if you
have some prior experience, you may need to prepare for courses
that you have never taught. You can count on lengthy preparation
time in either case. The following suggested steps may help you
Obtain a list of your first year of classes and request
At the time you sign your contract, you will probably know the
courses that you are expected to teach in your first year.
- Once you know the courses you will teach, request a syllabus
for each one.
- Course syllabi will provide you with a starting point for
planning each class.
- Seeing which text has been selected, what content has been
emphasized, the nature of the assignments given, and how the
course was organized will give you ideas for how you might teach
Develop syllabi and plan readings or text to use
When creating a syllabus, it is suggested that you provide as
much information to your students as possible so they will
understand what is expected from the outset. They want to
know from the very first day how the course will proceed so that
they can mark important deadlines on their calendars and plan their
- What exactly should a syllabus include? The syllabi
that are provided by your department may serve as a guide.
Also, you could check with the director for any further guidance
on this matter.
- course name, catalog number, registration number and
term, meeting time, days, building, and room number
- instructor's name, office number and location,
telephone and e-mail address, and office hours
- objectives of the course and all prerequisite
- a listing of all reading assignments and required
- complete description of all assignments and how much each
contributes to the final grade
- an explanation of your grading system
- your attendance policy
- a statement about the university's academy integrity
- a tentative itinerary that gives a schedule of the topics
to be covered and when examinations are to occur
- The course syllabus represents your contract with your
students for this particular class.
- It says what is expected and how the students will be
graded. Therefore, you are obligated to abide by the syllabus
once it is distributed.
- Making changes later in the term is not
recommended. It is recommended that you finish the
course as written in the syllabus and make the appropriate
adjustments the next time you teach the
- Selecting reading material and/or a required text is
important because it will determine much of the content of the
- Examination copies and desk copies of books that you order
for a course are available by calling or contacting the website of each publisher.
- Select your texts carefully by examining the table of
contents and reading one or more chapters.
- Whenever possible, select a book for undergraduate
students that is reader-friendly and intended for those who are
new to the field. More technical texts can be selected for
graduate students who may already have background knowledge of
Preparing lectures and class activities will require
significantly more time than creating your syllabus.
- As a general rule, it is estimated that 3 hours of planning
time are needed for every hour of class lecture, but there
may be times that you will find this to be a gross underestimate,
especially when you need to do a substantial amount of background
reading to master a new area before you teach it.
- Being well prepared will improve your classroom
performance, enhance your credibility as a new instructor,
and improve your self-confidence.
- As for what to plan in your lectures, the complexity of your
content will probably dictate how each class proceeds.
- Students seem to understand best when you provide general
information followed by specifics that are highlighted with
visual aids, such as writing on the blackboard or projecting
information from an overhead projector or computer. As
specific information is presented, examples should be offered
that help explain the meaning.
- Provide students with hands-on experiences whenever possible.
Students not only like the change of pace, they often understand
the concepts more thoroughly when they have to solve a problem or
apply new knowledge.
- Sometimes a lecture presentation can incorporate a group
activity or individual exercise with a question/answer or class
discussion follow-up. This can help identify gaps in
students' knowledge and subsequent areas for further
Most new faculty come in with a vague idea of the research they
intend to conduct, which is usually a follow-up study to their
dissertation. However, even when you have a study designed and
planned, it will take considerable time to get your laboratory
established and ready for data collection. Thus, if you can begin
to lay the groundwork before you arrive on campus, you may be able
to decrease your start-up time. A few suggestions in this regard
Contact potential sites for research (if needed)
If you require human subjects for your research, you may need to
contact various agencies, schools, or hospitals to solicit
- Although you may not be available to meet face-to-face with
individuals before you arrive on campus, you may be able to make
some initial contacts by telephone or e-mail to introduce
yourself and your intended research project and request their
assistance in obtaining participants.
- Often such agencies require a review of your project that you
could begin to prepare or submit in advance. Also, a future
meeting time could be set for when you do arrive.
Order laboratory and computer equipment
Placing your order for equipment early will help avoid
unnecessary delay in getting your research lab established and
ready for use.
- Be sure to request room dimensions and equipment dimensions
to ensure that everything will fit properly
before it is ordered.
- Keep in mind that you will probably need to work through
several people to place equipment orders such as department
secretaries, the vendors themselves, and the prescribed chain of
command (e.g., director, dean, and sometimes the provost) for
- Be sure to place your orders with any required justification,
rationale, or explanation and accurate details regarding item
numbers, prices, dimensions, specifications, and shipping
Plan first year of grant writing
Conducting quality research takes money, and you will need to
seek funding to support your studies.
- If you are successful in negotiating some start-up funds from
the university, you may be able to begin your first project right
away, but future projects will likely require additional funding.
Thus, it is suggested that you start your new job with a grant
- It is recommended that you complete and submit at least one
grant application in your first year, figuring that you may need
more than one attempt to receive funding.
- The first application to consider is a small-scale project
that could be funded through an internal competition.
Applications for small-scale projects are easier to
write, the pool of applicants is usually smaller than in a
- A second consideration is a small grant competition sponsored
by an outside agency. Although the competition for this grant may
be higher, the small-scale project will be more workable. Also,
external granting agencies may provide you with valuable feedback
for improving the application if it is not funded the first
When developing your grant writing plan, it is suggested that
you create a month-by-month timetable that includes one or more
planning meetings with the university's office of research for
budget assistance and time to review various sections of your
application for possible revisions by yourself and a willing
There are at least two very important reasons for disseminating
- All meaningful research should be disseminated to the
appropriate audience, whether that audience includes other
researchers, practicing speech-language pathologists, or the
public. One of your responsibilities as a researcher is to see
that your findings contribute to the scientific knowledge base
and are useful for further research or clinical application.
- Disseminating your research is to document your contribution
to science for your promotion and tenure dossier.
Plan first year of presentations
Your first year as a new faculty member will go fast because you
will be extremely busy, so advance planning and organization
is important. It is suggested that you schedule your presentation
deadlines just as you would your other commitments.
- Professional presentations may consist of peer-reviewed
competitions or invited speaking engagements. Submitting a
proposal for peer review is generally done several months prior
to the conference date.
- A "Call for Papers" that is published by the
conference planning committee will provide you with all the
necessary forms and rules for applying.
When planning your first year of presentations, consider the
time and cost commitments that will be required for each one.
- You will need to develop your notes and create visual aids
such as slides, poster displays, or overhead transparencies, as
well as one or more handouts.
- You may also need to allow time for class preparations
required for while you are away, such as arranging guest
lecturers or preparing class activities for a teaching assistant
Plan first year of publications
Probably your first publication during your initial year as a
teacher-scholar will involve your dissertation research
- As soon as you complete all the necessary revisions on your
dissertation report and have it accepted by your program, you
should begin planning for its publication, targeting submission
during the first term in your new job.
- It is important to begin your publication record during your
first year of employment to establish credibility as a researcher
and to start you on your way toward promotion and
- If you have other research projects still to put in
manuscript form, add these to your list of manuscripts to write
and submit to journals. You will find that writing while the
study is still fresh in your mind will take much less time than
writing when the information is cold.
- If you have only your dissertation study to submit, you
might consider writing informative articles for a different
audience, such as parents or caregivers to submit for publication
in a state association journal.
Establishing contacts for future relationships
It takes time to establish working relationships with others and
to be integrated into the university and local community. Both
positive working relationships and successful integration are vital
to your success as a faculty member. Thus, it is important to take
steps early to make contacts with others so that working
relationships can be established.
Contacts with faculty
As you talk with faculty during your interview, you will
probably find one or two with whom you share mutual research
- Those are the first people whom you might contact for
possible future collaboration. Sending a letter or e-mail message
to them after you have accepted your offer of employment will
indicate your interest in future involvement.
- It is important to remember to look beyond your own
department for colleagues as well. Consider obtaining information
about the research of faculty in other departments through the
university's website. When you see similar or related
research topics, take the initiative to e-mail, write, or
telephone these individuals to introduce yourself as a new
Contacts with community professionals
Depending on the size of the surrounding community, there may be
numerous professionals with whom you could collaborate on research
- People who work in hospitals, social service agencies,
schools, and private practices may be willing to guest lecture in
your courses, help you locate research subjects, or offer their
site for you to pilot some of your research procedures.
- Likewise, they may be interested in having you present
training seminars to their work groups and parent organizations
or share your expertise in some other way. Consequently, it is
suggested that you introduce yourself by letter or telephone to
several community professionals who may share your research or
Commonsense Advice for When You Arrive
Establishing a positive attitude toward your work
Even when your new job gets off to a good start, sometimes the
workload may seem so overwhelming that it is difficult to have a
- You may feel considerable pressure to do everything well the
first time around, when in fact you will probably make many
mistakes, as each of us did in our first faculty positions.
- The realization that the tenure clock is always ticking makes
the situation even more tense when setbacks occur. So,
considering all these pressures, you may find it difficult to
feel as though you are "on top of things" and in
- Most new faculty have feelings of self-doubt that are common
for anyone learning a new job. You will quickly find where your
strengths lie and where they do not, and you may feel
inadequately prepared. These feelings and experiences are
typical and can be expected.
- What is important to remember is that your attitude about
your job is
everything. A positive attitude can be your greatest asset.
- A positive attitude promotes possibilities. When you say
to yourself "Maybe I can" rather than "I
can't," it creates an
- A negative attitude keeps you from achieving in
your job or slows your progress. Such thinking usually results in
doing less, giving up, or accomplishing slipshod work. And as you
know, you are not likely to succeed when you do less, give up, or
do poor quality work.
- A positive attitude can help you succeed, and your
attitude and resulting success will act as a magnet that
other achievers and opportunities to you.
Establishing relationships with faculty and students
Understanding that you have potential to contribute to each and
every person's life is a place to start when establishing
relationships in your new job.
- For students, your contribution is likely to be to their
education and personal growth. Seeing students grow and
develop in their problem solving, critical thinking, and decision
making is extremely gratifying.
- If you view your interpersonal interactions with faculty in a
similar way - considering what you might be able to contribute on
a personal or professional level - you will have success in
establishing collegial relationships.
- When faculty see that you are open to ideas and to offering
your energy and time for the benefit of other colleagues and the
department, they will welcome you into the fold.
A word of advice when things seem to go amiss in your
relationships with students or faculty:
- In interpersonal relationships it is vital to keep the lines
of communication open if you wish to maintain good relationships
- When misunderstandings do occur, be proactive and make
every attempt to resolve the problem, rather than hoping it will
subside or disappear on its own. Try to solve the little problems
before they become big ones.
Learning to be a team player
If you have ever played a team sport, you realize that winning is a
team effort. The same is true for working in a university
- In order for the department to succeed, every faculty member
must contribute. This includes such activities as conducting
research, serving on committees, teaching, advising, recruiting
new students and faculty, directing student research, attending
faculty meetings, preparing for departmental performance reviews,
and so forth.
- Just as in team sports, there will be times that your
individual achievement will need to be secondary to the
team's collective achievement.
- Unfortunately, not all faculty share this team spirit. Some
may refuse to contribute to any endeavor that does not deliver a
personal reward or advance their own career. And some faculty may
be willing to be team players only after their individual needs
have been met first.
- Although you cannot control others' behavior, you can
control your own and by doing so, you may lead others to catch
the spirit by your positive model.
This information is adapted from
Guide to Success in Doctoral Study and Faculty Work
(2002), by Helen K. Ezell. The complete guide is
available for purchase from ASHA's