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Fellows 1995-1996

Co-coordinate the Program in College Teaching in Conjunction with the Teaching Resources Center and Develop a Resource Paper on Using Information Technology

Michael Bagley

My Professors for the Future project consisted of two parts:

  1. Performing as the co-administrator of the Program in College Teaching (PCT) for the 1995-96 academic year.
  2. Developing a paper on using information technology in teaching.

In this summary, I will describe PCT (necessary to truly understand the nature of my project) and outline my efforts over the past year that fulfilled these two project goals.

The Program in College Teaching, like Professors for the Future Program, is a rigorous year-long program devoted to preparing future faculty. Twenty students, with disciplines ranging from geography and nutrition to statistics and physics, worked with mentors and each other in fulfilling the seven activity contracts necessary to complete the PCT. The activity contracts are planned tasks to improve skills and knowledge of a particular area of faculty life such as understanding students and professional growth. Besides activity contracts, PCT participants are required to attend bimonthly meetings on topics related to teaching.

An active alumnus of the PCT is essential to assist current year PCT members to obtain the best learning experience possible. The program is complex, and proper planning and guidance are critical for success. The primary administrator of the PCT provides much of this needed guidance, but some things are better done by someone who has recently completed the program. In this role, I performed the following tasks as a co-administrator of the PCT:

  • Designed and organized bimonthly meetings to target needs of the PCT members (e.g., advising and technology meetings).
  • Helped members to improve and focus activity contracts.
  • Reviewed members' teaching and sharing my insights with them.

The use of information technology in teaching is a hot topic for future faculty. One of the most important issues related to this is knowing when to use technology in teaching as well as when not to use it. Three members of this year's PCT, along with the guidance of both PCT leaders, put together an entire meeting devoted to technology in teaching. Faculty members who use technology in teaching were invited to share their wisdom on the subject. Out of this meeting, and much group discussion and research, I developed a short paper on why to use technology in teaching.

Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Symposium

William K. Johnson

In conjunction with my appointment as the Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean of Graduate Studies and to the Chancellor for 1995-1996, I have worked on two general areas as my Professors for the Future projects. The first area dealt with promoting more activities and events that provide additional opportunities for graduate students to have interdepartmental interactions with graduate students from different backgrounds. I organized and led a small group of dedicated graduate students who planned and conducted the Multiple Exposures: Interdisciplinary Graduate Symposium (IGS), April 22-27, 1996.

The basic idea behind the Symposium was to showcase graduate education at UC Davis. The IGS, which was sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, Graduate Studies, Student Affairs, the Graduate Student Association, Associated Students of UCD and others, provided a unique opportunity for graduate students to communicate and interact with other graduate students as well as the faculty, staff and undergraduates on our campus. The Symposium was an expansion of a previous PFTF Fellow’s project, held in April 1995, which consisted of a humanities-based- two-day festival incorporating panels, performances, and poetry readings, an art exhibit and a reception. This year’s Symposium featured contributions from almost all academic disciplines on campus and included a poster session in conjunction with department and organization information display tables, roundtable discussions addressing important topics in graduate education, panel discussions, individual presentations, poetry and fiction readings, a play, an art exhibit and a celebration in Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. Some Symposium participants and attendees were also awarded prizes donated by Student Affairs, Graduate Studies, and various local businesses.

The other project area that I focused on during this year is increasing graduate student use of and access to computer resources. The project’s first part is involved encouraging all departments and groups to establish graduate student-dedicated listprocesors or distribution lists. With the e-mail addresses of those lists, Graduate Studies has the ability to communicate rapidly and efficiently with all “connected” graduate students. Another aspect of the project deals with surveying departments and groups to find out the kind and levels of computer resources available to graduate students on campus. The final part of the project is to work with the GSA Information Technology Advisory Committee to ensure that graduate students are aware of and provide input into information technology policy at Davis and the rest of the University of California

Mediation Training for Graduate Students

Lalia Kiburi

In August 1991, then-Chancellor Theodore Hullar commissioned Tom Dutton, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, to study the campus grievance system to assess its strengths and deficiencies. From this study, the Council of Deans and Vice Chancellors created a task force chaired by Associate Vice Chancellor Dennis Shimek. In their May, 1994 report, one principle Task Force recommendation was to develop a campuswide mediation program that would be responsive to the specific needs of faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students.

As a graduate student in sociology, I have a special interest in conflict resolution and anger management as productive tools for group cohesion. This interest influenced my commitment to become a trained mediator with a special emphasis on the concerns of graduate student life.

Conflict is a normal part of life; the life of a graduate student is no exception. Taking personal responsibility for the resolution of such conflict is both important and empowering. Mediation is an expense-free process available to students that allows the complainants to meet voluntarily, and with the help of an impartial, trained mediator, open communication lines and informally discuss ways of resolving the conflict. The process is completely confidential.

The purpose of my project was to increase the awareness of mediation and to demonstrate its utility in enhancing graduate students' skills both professionally and personally. Research on this project, during the 1995-96 academic year, allowed me to: assist in organizing a 16-hour mediation training course for twelve graduate students; become a trained mediator myself; redesign a mediation brochure to address graduate students' needs; create the Graduate Mediation Instructional Aid Committee; secure funding for videotaping, editing, and copying; role play in the "mock mediation"; and finally, assist in networking toward the potential exporting of our instructional product to all interested UCD departments, other universities, the California State Personnel Board, and the National Association of Mediators in Education. In this manner, the role of mediation as an alternate dispute resolution process is effectively institutionalized for future augmentation of the graduate student experience.

Language Skills Enhancement for Graduate Students Doing Fieldwork in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Jennifer Bickham Mendez

In today's world transnational social, economic and political processes have brought our global community increasingly closer together. In a time of heightened attention to immigration policies, the heralding of such transnational agreements as NAFI'A and other effects of globalization processes, social scientists conducting research in the Western Hemisphere are increasingly in need of at least some knowledge of the Spanish language. Here at UC Davis many graduate students both in my discipline and in other social science departments plan to use Spanish in their research.

Classes in the Spanish department are overcrowded; and although they may be useful for the beginner, they are not ideal for those with basic knowledge who are primarily interested in practicing conversational skills.

For my project I formed a weekly conversation and discussion/support group for graduate students wishing to practice and hone their spoken Spanish and explore issues of cross-cultural research. We met weekly for informal conversation and also practiced various language enhancement exercises. The group compiled a list of vocabulary words encountered during our sessions, which was then distributed to all participants via e-mail. We frequently invited a different native speaker to join us, thereby exposing group participants to different accents and idiomatic variations. We also saw two films in Spanish and had short discussions after their viewing.

Participants in this group were from a variety of departments, including sociology, anthropology, nutrition, international agricultural development (IAD), history, environmental design, and education. This project connected with other interdisciplinary programs on campus. Participants from the Gender and Global Issues Ford Visitors Program acted as contributors to our weekly discussions. In addition, my project coordinated with the Hemispheric Initiative of the Americas (HIA) and with the program of IAD. It is my hope that this project not only assisted graduate students in improving their Spanish language skills, but that it promoted the continued cross-disciplinary ex­ change of ideas among students conducting research in the Western Hemisphere.

A Weekly Seminar Series Designed to Help Ecology Graduate Students Obtain Their Best Career Fit

Rebecca Post

In the course of their graduate school career, ecology students are faced with a myriad of decisions concerning their future as ecologists, professionals and academicians. Early decision making and guidance into career paths, founded on personal values, allows for greater job satisfaction. Although the Graduate Group in Ecology is the largest group on campus, the graduate students are spread thinly over thirty departments. This often makes it difficult to get adequate peer mentoring on subjects such as career choices, internship experience and job searches.

The purpose of my project was to help ecology graduate students look beyond graduate school to their best fit career. This was accomplished by having students define their own personal values and compare them with potential employers' mission/vision statements. Graduate students attended a weekly, two- hour seminar in the Winter quarter. The first hour was a panel presentation of career opportunities by ecologists from various agencies (federal, state, local governments, and private firms) and academic institutions (University of California, California State University, University of the Pacific, Saint Mary's College and two community colleges). During the second hour students interacted in a more informal question/answer session with the visiting ecologists. Graduate students were also given the opportunity to interact with recent UCD ecology graduates. Additional seminar topics included time management, mentorship, guidance committees, and additional campus career resources.

I coordinated the arrival and participation of twenty four panelists, which included nineteen ecologists. The original starting class size was seventeen; at times we had over twenty and we even had four undergraduates. Valuable ideas for this seminar came from my participation in the Student Leadership Series, the course on Professionalism and Ethics in Science (GGG 202), the Program in College Teaching and the Professors for the Future meetings.

Creation of an Online Database of Computer Resources for Teaching and Research Assistants

Byrav Ramamurthy

The goal of my project for the Professors for the Future program was to provide graduate students employed as Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants at UC Davis with access to information regarding the computer resources available on campus and to provide them with the required computer skills to use these resources effectively. In this regard, I have created an online database consisting of two sections:

  1. A wealth of information about important computer software tools and languages, used in teaching and research
  2. A repository of information about the computing resources available on campus

The online database has been designed to maximize ease of use and to provide fast lookup. I have brought together some of the finest reference documents available on the Internet. Wherever possible, I have also provided a local copy of these documents to enable fast access. The material is organized in a manner to help users of both beginner and expert level skills. A version of the online documentation has also been made available in the form of a Postscript file for printing. The layout is ideally suited for individual learning and for use in technology workshops. Through the course of next year, I plan to keep the database updated and provide further improvements. 

I would like to thank my mentor, Professor Kevin Roddy, Medieval Studies and Information Technology, for his valuable advice and guidance. I would also like to thank Prof. Biswanath Mukherjee, Computer Science; Prof. Richard Walters, Computer Science and Prof. Will Davis, Teaching Resources Center, for their suggestions. I would like to thank Dean Rosemarie Kraft and Georgette Grivetti for all their help. Finally, I would like to thank all the contributors, who have made available their work on the Internet, without whose magnanimity this project would not have been possible.

Facilitate Interdisciplinary Studies among Graduate Students and Faculty Interested in Environmental Approaches to Literature

Stephanie Sarver

The Department of English at UC Davis is acquiring a reputation as an institution sympathetic to students pursuing graduate studies in literary environmentalism. This is a relatively new area of study; thus, no formal mechanism exists that provides new graduate students in English with information about professors working in other departments, who are also interested in environmental issues. Students pursuing a course of study in literary environmentalism must establish their own networks, and may miss or overlook important contacts in their random searches.

Because environmentalist approaches to literature require a knowledge of ecology, natural history, environmental philosophy and history, and critical theory of the landscape and environment, it benefits graduate students in English to establish contact with people working in those disciplines.

The purpose of my project was to facilitate interdisciplinary studies among graduate students and professors interested in environmental approaches to literature, by identifying faculty who are interested in working with English graduate students. Through interviews and correspondence, I identified a diverse community of scholars who are addressing environmental issues. Faculty from such wide-ranging disciplines as Environmental Design, Wildlife and Fisheries Biology, and the History and Philosophy of Science (to name only a few) responded to a survey in which they detailed their scholarly interests related to environmental issues, and recommended courses, which they felt might be of use to English graduate students. The findings of my survey will be distributed to the English graduate office, which will provide it to incoming graduate students. They will also work to pair incoming graduate students with graduate student and faculty mentors.

Teaching NAS 191: Native American Ecology in the Fall and Helping with NA Graduate Recruitment

Emily Schwalen

Project Summary Unavailable

Student-Teaching Assistant Crisis Management Workshops

Nick A. Thornburg

As the Teaching Assistant Training Coordinator (TATC) for the Department of Chemistry, I helped several of my teaching assistants resolve conflicts with their students, such as verbal and physical threats, and sexual harassment. Many times, the crisis contributed to the TA becoming a better teacher: they gained the confidence of their students.

For example, some of the students asked about problems with their significant others, about eating disorders, dropping out of school, and in some cases, thoughts of suicide. No matter how the crisis evolved, the TA and the student often suffered a great amount of stress, and rarely did they know where to tum for help. The TAs had been trained to instruct; they were not prepared to deal with problematic situations or the stress that a crisis generated.

As the TATC, I was in a unique position to do something about this problem, but I was finishing my term as the TATC. The Professors for the Future program gave me the opportunity to address the subject of student-instructor conflict prevention and abatement. I identified campus resources, such as the Teaching Resources Center and the Counseling Center, and developed a short seminar that I presented four times this past year to about 80 graduate students. The seminars focused on three topics:

  1. Prevention: Instructors should provide professional service only within the expertise of their discipline; boundaries must be identified and maintained (contact hours, meeting places, personal contact, etc.); signs of problematic situations must be taken seriously; instructors can prevent a crisis by actively listening to the students.
  2. Instructors must let others know that something is or has taken place; documentation of incidents (threatening notes, phone calls, etc.) must be made to protect the instructor and the student; instructors should speak honestly with the student.
  3. Discussion centered around the many helpful campus and city offices and personnel that are available to instructors and students for protection, counseling, and support.

Overall, the Professors for the Future program gave me the opportunity to reach more than just the chemistry department TAs with a service that is important to the professional development of any educator.