Investing in the future
March 26, 2014
Rique Campa, a professor of fisheries and wildlife, is associate dean of the Graduate School and coordinator for the NSF-funded Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning, a network among 22 research intensive universities across the country, all focused on enhancing undergraduate STEM education through the development of better career and professional development programs for doctoral students who will be the next generation of STEM educators.
One of the wonderful things about Michigan State is its continuous and strategic investment in the professional development of its students and staff. This quality on our university led me personally to my current position at the Graduate School, and it has shaped my work in many ways.
As a professor of fisheries and wildlife in 2004 I had reached the point in my career where I felt I was ready for some university administrative experience. As a department graduate program director, I knew one of my passions was working with graduate students, and I knew I wanted my experience to have a scholarly aspect to it as well.
An opportunity to serve as a faculty-in-residence in the Graduate School allowed me to work with a team to help develop and evaluate graduate programming for our students. Eventually this led to my current position as associate dean of the Graduate School and MSU coordinator for the NSF-funded Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning. Much of my work in the Graduate School focuses on career and professional development programming for our graduate students, graduate professional students and postdocs.
It is important to me, and my colleagues at Michigan State, that our programs be strategic. We need to be sure we’re filling the needs of the graduate students and post-docs and the needs of their future employers. If we have a program we want to be able to show what the impact of the program has been. Research and programming are expensive, so we need to be strategic in our offerings and evaluate the programs to be sure we are meeting our objectives.
At the Graduate School our programs are based on scholarship and we evaluate each program. We can look at pre- and post-program survey results to see what participants learned and what they’ll do with the information presented at a particular program. As administrators, we can use these data to help create better programs as well as share this information through networks with other universities around the country to help improve graduate education career and professional development practices nationwide.
At Michigan State, one example of a local network initiative includes the Future Academic Scholars in Teaching Fellowship Program for doctoral students in science, technology, engineer, and mathematics.
The FAST Fellows program is one of the things that gives me a lot of personal satisfaction. Each year dozens of STEM doctoral students apply for the competitive fellowship. Ten to 14 (about one fourth of the applicants) are chosen for the program, which runs from August to May. A steering committee composed of a diverse group of faculty and staff members and a graduate student facilitate the program.
Throughout the year, the program prepares fellows for future academic careers by giving them opportunities to develop, implement and evaluate a teaching-as-research project. The various faculty and staff members across campus that are involved in the program get to see these fellows’ development throughout the year, culminating in the FAST Fellows Teaching as Research Symposium in May.
I love seeing how their work comes together—the way they integrate the literature and use it to support their conclusions, the way they build on the teaching and learning literature with their own research, and how they discuss the potential implications of their work. I enjoy seeing how they begin to think about teaching and learning. It is exciting to see their thoughtfulness and their insights when they present in May, and to have them think about the implications their work has for activities in the classroom and for undergraduate education. You sit back and think, “These people are going to be phenomenal professors.” It gives me a sense that, yes, this is what we should be doing to prepare the next generation of STEM educators.
Photo by G.L. Kohuth