Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Supporting future faculty - Mizzou postdoctoral program

A few weeks ago I wrote about the disparity between graduate trainees' job expectations and the realities of a shrinking academic job market. Drawing from a Chronicle of Higher Ed essay , I made some suggestions that could help reconcile that gap. The University of Missouri has recently launched a postdoctoral program that I think provides a useful template for the student-->professional transition. The university is funding postdoctoral positions for five of its own recent PhDs to develop courses in five areas identified by the Mizzou Advantage as core strengths of the university:
•Food for the Future
•Media of the Future
•One Health, One Medicine: The Convergence of Human and Animal Health
•Sustainable Energy
•Understanding and Managing Disruptive and Transformational Technologies
•Educational Programs

The university benefits from having non-faculty in teaching positions, but the postdocs also benefit from participating directly in innovative course development (not just teaching established courses) at a higher wage and greater stability than would be likely as an adjunct. The hope is that opportunities like this might help get grad students to finish their degrees rather than languish in the hopes the job market will improve. Obviously, 5 postdoc slots are inadequate to the size of that task, but if the program is a success (i.e. the chancellor keeps funding it and the postdocs themselves are able to land decent jobs afterwards) then maybe postdoctoral career support will catch on.

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