Liberal Education

PFF--The Road Ahead

The featured topic for this issue--Preparing Future Faculty (PFF)--resonates arrestingly with the several articles on faculty work by scholars at Bucknell University, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and Susquehanna University. The PFF authors examine the academy's up-hill progress--halting yet tangible--in aligning graduate education with the expectations for new faculty. Yet the companion campus articles on faculty work remind us that a broadening of graduate education remains an urgent need.

One foundation program officer caught the nub of the problem in discussing her organization's multimillion dollar investment in faculty development grants. "What we're really funding with these faculty development grants," she told me, "is remedial education in all the topics--teaching, learning, curriculum, connections with society--that the graduate schools refuse to address." How much better if graduate students were introduced to the full array of their institutional roles as future faculty members--including their role in fostering undergraduate learning --as a normal and even valued part of their professional preparation!

The Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) initiative was launched by the AAC&U community for just this purpose. For over a decade, PFF has worked to create new collaborations and deepened understandings across the institutional boundaries that traditionally have separated graduate and undergraduate learning. This year, AAC&U undertook a serious internal review of the strengths and limits of PFF's accomplishments to date. The results reported in these pages are both inspiring and sobering.

PFF was first launched at AAC&U in 1989 (under a different title) with a pilot grant from the Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to create experimental partnerships between three pairs of graduate institutions and undergraduate campuses: The University of Chicago and Knox College; Duke University and Guilford College; and Brown University with Connecticut College. The goal was to focus, within graduate programs and among future faculty, on faculty members' institutional role in fostering educational excellence and vitality.

Energized by the great success of this pilot effort, AAC&U gladly accepted a 1992 invitation from the Pew Charitable Trusts to frame a broader and more comprehensive initiative to align graduate education with the needs of undergraduate institutions. Recognizing the value of a visible partnership between the AAC&U community and the graduate schools, AAC&U invited the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) to join what thereafter became known as PFF. With strong support from past-president Jules Lapidus at CGS, the partnership between these two associations became enormously generative for most of the ensuing decade. Between 1993 and 2002, the PFF initiative would benefit from over 7 million dollars in grant support, from Pew, the National Science Foundation, and, most recently, The Atlantic Philanthropies.

PFF was fortunate to have as its director AAC&U's Jerry Gaff, who brought to the initiative virtually unparalleled knowledge of both curriculum reform efforts throughout higher education and faculty development. Gaff has worked with a series of partners at CGS, especially Anne Pruitt-Logan, who, as a former graduate dean, shared the vision of a dynamic new connection that would connect graduate programs with the priorities of undergraduate learning.

With Gaff and Pruitt-Logan modeling the kind of collaboration PFF sought to advance, the initiative has steadily expanded its scope, visibility, and influence. Since 1992, PFF has shaped cluster relationships involving forty-three graduate universities and eleven disciplinary societies, with over 250 partner campuses cooperating with them to broaden and deepen graduate students' preparation for their future responsibilities as teachers, institutional citizens, and college educators.

This year, PFF and its co-directors will form a new partnership with the American Association for Higher Education's (AAHE), continuing work on faculty roles and rewards. With the co-sponsorship of both AAHE and AAC&U--the two organizations most steadfastly focused on the quality of undergraduate education--PFF will continue to serve as a catalyst for fundamental change in the way future faculty are prepared for their campus responsibilities.

The PFF saga is inspiring, not least because PFF is an important example of a long-term, steadily expanding commitment by hundreds of institutions and literally thousands of supporters for a needed change in the American academy. And yet, we must also acknowledge that PFF has not yet succeeded in its central goal: changing the culture of graduate preparation. There are, to be sure, some extraordinary models for broadened faculty preparation developed within PFF. This issue features several impressive programs. Overall, however, most graduate departments remain firmly unengaged with the educational challenges that confront a changing academy, and, by extension, a new generation of campus faculty. At some of the longest-established PFF campuses, our evaluators found, PFF has been integrated into the teaching and learning center. This enables the graduate school to provide graduate students with programs that prepare them for teaching, but it also enables the great majority of the graduate faculty and departments to remain outside the transformative dialogue PFF was founded to advance. Moreover, this strategy misses the point that PFF was intended to address: the institutional and educational responsibilities of faculty, not just their teaching. Jack Meacham, one of the PFF external evaluators, summarizes his own learning with the title of his article: "Our Doctoral Programs Are Failing Our Undergraduate Students."

What, then, should be done? The articles in this issue offer several routes forward. Educational leaders, national organizations, disciplinary societies, and vanguard graduate programs each can play a role. But the key element in refocusing graduate education, surely, will be a more united and forceful insistence from the hiring institutions--both departments and academic administrators--about the kinds of preparation they expect in new appointments. Faculty position descriptions could begin to include, not just areas of scholarly expertise and teaching, but also candidates' readiness to contribute to a new vitality in the undergraduate educational experience, to campus success with diversity and inclusion, and to the adoption of field-based and integrative forms of learning.

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