May 10, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 16

current issue
archive / search

    Ph.D.s return to speak at teaching conference

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    “Lessons from New Faculty: Teaching Across the Social Sciences,” one in a series of annual conferences for graduate students sponsored by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, will offer students from all divisions a chance to learn about challenges and opportunities they can expect to face during the transition from graduate students to professors.

    The conference, which will take place Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, in the third-floor lecture room of Swift Hall, will address a range of issues, from technological innovations in the classroom to the special challenges of building a life as a professional academic.

    Elizabeth Chandler, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, explained that the event encourages students to recognize that institutions vary widely in character and focus. “Sometimes, inadvertently, graduate students here receive the impression they will go on to teach at a University with a culture identical to Chicago’s,” Chandler explained. “That’s seldom the case. This conference begins to prepare them for life after this place.”

    Henry Gleitman, professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, will deliver the conference keynote address at 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 11, with a reception to follow in the Swift Commons Room. Saturday’s panel presentations will begin at 9 a.m. with “Institutional Differences: From a Small Liberal Arts College to the Big 10.” Additional panels will include “Looking Out on a Sea of Faces: Challenges of the Large Lecture Class,” “The Challenges of Professional Life,” and “Diversity in the Classroom: Addressing Students’ Needs.”

    Professors who recently received their Ph.D.s from Chicago and who now teach at a variety of institutions around the country, have been invited to talk about their experiences.

    One of the participants, Cathleen Giustino (Ph.D. ’97), now an assistant professor in history at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, will deliver a presentation titled “The Tenure Track and the Tenure Contract.” She said she hopes to pass along an appreciation of how accurate knowledge of precise requirements for tenure can help a professor better manage workloads and stress, and suggest ways to go about securing that knowledge.

    Giustino, who wrote her dissertation under co-chairs John Boyer, Dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History, and Michael Geyer, Professor in History, was on the job market for three years before landing a position at Auburn, a state-funded university with 24,000 students. She said one of her biggest challenges at Auburn has been learning to anticipate the kinds of assumptions and expectations her students, an impressive number of whom are exceptionally bright, hardwork-ing and rewarding to teach, bring to the classroom. “Their cultural horizons are just different from what we’re used to at Chicago,” she said. “To many of them, Atlanta, which is 100 miles away, seems as distant as Paris.”

    Giustino devotes a lot of time to getting to know her students. And though the extra commitment adds to the pressures of teaching and publishing, she said she feels prepared to meet the challenge. “My training at Chicago really taught me how to be tenacious,” she said. “Even though there are stresses, I know I have the ability to deal with them and get things done.”

    Chandler added, “Cathleen can speak to us as a ‘native’ because she used to be here. That’s the distinction of this conference. We could have invited a very competent group of strangers to come and talk, but they wouldn’t necessarily know or understand our preoccupations.”

    Conference pre-registration is required, but there is no cost to participants. For more information, visit the Web site at http://teaching.uchicago.edu/ or contact Heather Lindkvist at hlind@ccp.uchicago.edu.