The Many Paths of the Would-Be Professoriate

The goal of one of the longest-running professional-development programs for graduate students and postdocs is baked right into its name.

Preparing Future Faculty, which started in 1993, was designed to introduce Ph.D. students and postdocs on campuses nationwide to the realities of being a professor. The program exposes them to what faculty life looks like at the kinds of colleges where they’re most likely to be hired. One of the first institutions in the program was Duke University.

Its participants, known as fellows, visit nearby institutions that are starkly different from Duke, including private liberal-arts colleges, a historically black college, a community college, a women’s college, and a sprawling land-grant institution, where they sit in on undergraduate classes and talk with faculty members, administrators, and students. Faculty mentors on those campuses talk frankly to them about the demands of academic life, and provide insider tips on conducting academic job searches, among other things.

In the end, not every fellow becomes a professor, but that outcome is not unexpected.