Interdisciplinary Faculty/Graduate Student Discussion and Research Group for Eastern Bloc Scholars
Since 1989, the formerly communist countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have moved to the forefront of consciousness in many disciplines, and we have many scholars who are working in and on these countries. During the 1993-4 academic year, I organized an interdisciplinary faculty/graduate student discussion and research group, Eastern Bloc Scholars, centered around issues in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
The goals of this project were to draw together a community of scholars interested in the Eastern Bloc, and to promote awareness of Eastern bloc issues. I am, very excited about developing UCD’s potential as a site for more coordinated study of the many complex and quickly changing issues in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. I received not only the support of Professors for the Future, but also a Research Cluster rant from the Humanities Institute, and meeting space and enthusiasm from the Institute for Governmental Affairs.
The primary purpose of this group was to read and discuss articles dealing with this area of the world, and the review work of group members who are finishing work for publication. The secondary purpose was to promote research at UCD on Eastern bloc issues by encouraging faculty and graduate students to produce working papers for publication. Through newsletters, organizational meetings and flyers for the group kept in touch with new developments. We presented two speakers, which we coordinated with the IGA and its three speaker series on the Eastern bloc. Presently, we are putting together an interdisciplinary compendium of working papers from UCD graduate students, printed with Research Cluster funding and available to faculty and students at UCD. We are considering submitting the papers as a panel to the Western Political Science Association Annual Meetings, with a view towards having the proceedings published. My experiences with faculty and graduate students from other departments who are grappling with the same issues have enriched my understanding of the entire Eastern bloc region and enabled me to conduct better research. Professors for the Future has been invaluable in providing support and developing the infrastructure for this project.
Needs Assessment of International Teaching Assistants to Assist with TA Performance
International graduate students are a valuable component of the graduate student body at UC Davis. Most work either as TAs and RAs and their service brings an international dimension and new perspective to the campus community. However, problems such as insufficient language skills and cultural awareness can affect the teaching performance of international teaching assistants (ITAs).
As an ITA, my primary concern is to see how the needs of ITAs can be better served to ensure a more efficient TA performance. The project I am doing for the 1993-1994 Professors for the Future Program is designed to address the problems which most ITAs have encountered. These problems are most often identified as language proficiency, pedagogical skills, cultural differences and cross-cultural communication. The project is particularly focused on the issue of cultural differences and cross-cultural communication. It also examines how differences in philosophy and purpose of education systems, in the behavioral norms of classrooms and the cultural expectations and attitudes of the American undergraduate students may influence the effectiveness of ITAs. The project consists of a questionnaire for ITAs, a survey of the existing ITA training system on campus, interviews with faculty and ITAs, seminar talks and workshops in conjunction with ESL (English as a Second Language), TRC (Teaching Resource Center) and SISS (Services for International Students and Scholars) to address related ITA issues. By familiarizing ITAs with the US culture and education which are here defined broadly to include institutional culture, disciplinary sub-cultures, and classroom culture, the project aims to prepare ITAs for a more fruitful teaching performance in a different cultural context.
Study of Recruitment and Retention of Native American Graduate Students
While doing the fieldwork for my dissertation at Round Valley Indian Reservation, I became aware of the crucial role that higher education plays in Native American communities. More Native American doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals are desperately needed to enable indigenous peoples to set their own course of action through self-determination. The new awareness I gained led me to undertake my current research project with the Professors for the Future Program. Through this project I am studying the recruitment and retention of Native American students at UC Davis.
While the number of Native American students is small when compared with the overall student population at UCD, some encouraging trends are present. At the graduate and professional school levels, Native American students have a high rate of degree completion and appear to do well in their programs as a group. Part of my study yet to be completed is to survey Native American graduate students to learn more about their experiences at UCD. It is hoped that the knowledge gained through this study will help improve retention and recruitment of Native American students by providing information to the appropriate university sources on the current status of Native American graduate students.
Coordination of Scientific Integrity and Professionalism Course:AWIS/GWIS Spring Conference and Graduate Student Grievance Handbook
As Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean, Graduate Studies and a Professors for the Future Fellow (1993-94), I served as a liaison between graduate students and the Office of Graduate Studies. As a liaison, I regularly attended both graduate student and administrative meetings in order to cultivate an awareness of current graduate student issues on the UC Davis campus. In addition, I was involved in numerous special projects relevant to graduate student concerns:
1) course development for the Fall 1993 graduate student seminar on “Scientific Integrity and Professionalism” (co-sponsored by the Professors for the Future Program, Graduate Studies and the Internship and Career Center), 2) logistical planning for the Spring 1994 AWIS/GWIS conference on “Leadership Development for Women in Science” at UC Davis, 3) editing and distribution of the handbook “Resources for Addressing Graduate Student Complaints and Grievances” to graduate program chairs and staff, 4) distribution of information on the Graduate Student Peer Mentorship program, and 5) providing an active voice for graduate student concerns via membership on the Dean’s Council, the Graduate Student Services Issues Committee, and the Child Care Administrative Advisory Committee.
My tenure as a Professors for the Future Fellow was extremely rewarding. I feel that my various projects made significant positive contributions to both the quality of the life and the professional development of my fellow UC Davis graduate student colleagues. In addition, I enhanced my own professional development through my involvement as a Professors for the Future Fellow by gaining a better understanding of: the administrative functioning of a research university, the culture of the academy, mentoring, and issues of academic integrity and professionalism.
Student Designed Museum Exhibits:Increasing Interest in Science among High School and Elementary School Children and Providing Links with UCD
Many children get turned off to math and science when they’ve only been taught the basics or before their first hands-on science experiment. Therefore, reaching students very early may be the most efficient way to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who will eventually contribute as students and as professors.
I designed a program to link elementary and high schools, children and science museums and UC Davis. I rallied these groups around a single project: student-designed museum exhibits. I saw this liaison as a way to cultivate early interests in science, turn students into teachers, reduce fears of science by integrating it with math, English, and art, introduce role models into the lives of these potential scientists, showcase the work of students inside and outside their communities, and give universities another opportunity to effect pre-college science education.
This year, a model of this liaison involving the UC Davis EXCITES (EXCellence in Teaching Elementary Science) program, Pacific Elementary School in Stockton, and the Children’s Museum of Stockton was completed and evaluated. The K-6 students combined science, English, dance and art to create an ocean in the Children’s Museum. The Children’s Museum will introduce the idea to the Stockton area school districts with the hopes of having other area schools participate. The foundations have been laid for a liaison between UC Davis, Explore it!, and the Davis Science Center through the outreach component of the M.U.R.P.P.S. (Minority Undergraduate Research Participation in the Physical Sciences) program. High school students will participate in field based research projects. When they complete their field research, museum staff along with science, art and English teachers from the students’ schools will design an interactive museum exhibit, teach classes to younger students, and do presentations in the museum’s guest scientist series. I am now trying to develop a method of evaluation to measure how their involvement in this project effected their views of science and scientists.
Study Time to Degree Completion Among Graduate Students and Demographic Differences
Graduate students often find that the period of graduate training overlaps that of family formation. A previous advisory committee reported that at least 10% of UCD graduate students have dependent children. Students indicated that children and child care concerns slowed academic progress. I am interested in whether demographic characteristics explain any of the variation in time to obtain a Ph.D. I intend to incorporate demographic, financial and academic discipline data into a multivariate model of time to completion; however, changes in the information system and in the information collected at registration currently make it difficult to look at time to completion as a function of marital status and dependents.
Assistant Dean Leslie Sunell kindly gave me access to her prospective 1985 cohort data. For 236 new students indicating at admission that they pursued a Ph.D., the average age at entry to the graduate program was 28.8 years. Of those completing the Ph.D. by June 1993, men and women did not differ in time to completion. Within 8 academic years, 45% of these students had obtained a Ph.D. Of the remaining students, 50 were still active in spring of 1991, while 29 disappear after receiving a master’s degree. I am looking at interactions of gender and discipline on Ph.D. completion and drafting recommendations for obtaining information necessary to examine demographic effects on Ph.D. completion.
Coordination of the Program in College Teaching in Conjunction with the TRC
As a Professors for the Future fellow, my project has centered on an internship I defined at the Teaching Resources Center. My primary role has been as the assistant program director for this year’s Program in College Teaching. This program is designed to help graduate students interested in teaching careers improve their teaching techniques and professional development.
By helping with this particular program, the number of potential graduate students that could participate in the program increased. My specific tasks as assistant director have included: coordinating the bi-weekly Roundtable meetings, videotaping and evaluating participant teaching and presentation of several Roundtable workshops. I have also assisted the Teaching Resources Center by running workshops during the TA Training Program in fall and winter. As a member of the campus Gender Equity Group, I have also presented workshops on creating gender equity in the classroom environment. With the assistance of the Teaching Resources Center, I have also had the opportunity to design a mentor survey, analyze the results and submit my findings to a teaching journal. In addition, I have written teaching articles on the Professors for the Future program itself and the effective use of videotaping. Although the workshops and articles are important, the most rewarding aspect of this internship has been the opportunities to both help and learn from the many talented graduate students on this campus.
Coordination of Readings for the Integrity and Professionalism in the University Course
My project was to help develop the readings for Integrity and Professionalism in the University: Preparing Graduate Students for the 21st Century. This is a course offered to all graduate students regarding professionalism and ethics in universities. The course has twenty-four topics ranging from plagiarism and responsible data gathering, to teaching in the diverse environment of the twenty-first century and mentoring, to dissertation writing and publishing.
The course offers critical information to graduate students regardless of discipline. The readings and gust speakers are chosen with much thought and care and together represent the best information on that particular topic at the time.
UC Davis is a leader in constructing and offering a course such as this for its graduate students. This course is unique among the UC campuses in terms of the support and services it provides to graduate students. The kinds of topics discussed in this course will help all Professors for the Future meet the challenge of teaching and mentoring in the diverse environment of the twenty-first century.
Development and Support of Student Services for Graduate Students
The focus of my year in the Professors for the Future program entailed a variety of activities including committee work, development and support of new and continuing student support services (such as the Community Housing Listing Service and the Graduate Student Emergency Loan Fund). Although these activities seem diverse in nature, they were all of interest to me as a Graduate Student Association officer and a future professor. The need for more educational, research and support services for graduate students was the common thread linking these activities.
The committees on which I served included continuing my work with the Graduate Council, as well as new involvement with the Phase III Oversight Committee and the Academic Senate. The importance of a graduate student voice was clear by the issues that were addressed. I believe that providing a graduate student’s insight into Graduate Studies and University issues was very important.
My work with student support services included continued involvement on the Graduate Student Emergency Loan Fund (GSELF) and the GSA Travel Award Committees. I believe these services are valuable support which serve various purposes. It has been shown that all student support services will improve retention rates and time-to-degree. In addition, programs such as the Travel Awards enhance professional development and give graduate students direct exposure to their field of study.
I was also active on the Board of Directors for the newly formed Community Housing Listing Service sponsored by the GSA. The CHLS was established last summer to ensure that student housing services would continue to be available for all students despite administrative budget cuts that curtailed these services.
I believe my experiences with the Professors for the Future and my projects within the Graduate Student Association will make me a strong asset to the graduate program as I move on to become an assistant professor at Utah State University.