A Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

3

PREPARING FOR THE PROFESSORATE:
WHAT AFRICAN AMERICAN
GRADUATE STUDENTS SHOULD KNOW

Joy L. Gaston

As I reflect on my graduate school experience, I often wonder if my program truly prepared me for faculty life at a research university. In most cases, the answer to my inquiry is yes; however, I had to deliberately include experiences that would prepare me for survival as a faculty member of color in the academy. For instance, my classroom experience did not prepare me for teaching graduate level courses. Very rarely do students take courses from the perspective of the professor. To be frank, as a student, I did not think that my professors prepared as much for classes as I now know they did. Additionally, writing papers for my classes did not teach me how to write for publication. Not only was the feedback insufficient, but writing for publication is a different process altogether. How then does one focus on obtaining the type of education that will help him or her acquire and sustain a faculty position at a research university where research reigns supreme?

This chapter critically examines the transition from graduate school to obtaining and sustaining a faculty position in the academy. What types of experiences will help prepare African American doctoral students for faculty roles in the academy? How might students go about obtaining such experiences? This chapter addresses these questions by drawing upon the research literature as well as my own experience as a graduate student of color. The importance of obtaining an education, not just a Ph.D., is reinforced by providing suggestions for African American doctoral students on how to navigate their programs to prepare for a career in the professorate at a research university.

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