Penn looks to students as future faculty members

Amy Gutmann hopes to expand programs that recruit alumni to faculty positions

· March 16, 2014, 5:32 pm   ·  Updated April 4, 2014, 3:58 pm

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Penn students considering a future career in higher education can expect support from the University in their endeavors.

At February’s Board of Trustees meeting, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Vice Provost for Faculty Anita Allen said that the University should focus on recruiting professors from Penn’s student body as one way to hire the best faculty.

While different programs currently create a pipeline for students who may be interested in pursuing professorships, Gutmann and Allen hope to recruit more Penn alumni as faculty members by expanding these programs.

Gutmann specifically wants to increase the amount of alumni hired to the faculty through postdoctoral programs. One such program is the Postdoctoral Fellowships for Academic Diversity, which funds doctoral recipients from diverse backgrounds.

Another graduate program that could serve as a pipeline for Penn students to become faculty is the Fontaine Fellows, which provides fellowships to first generation or economically disadvantaged college students.

Gutmann noted the importance of continuing development of existing opportunities for future faculty. “We like the pipeline programs we have and we want to expand them. As we expand them, we also want - when we have searches - to consider hiring some of our own post-docs and graduate students,” she said.

In speaking about current pipeline programs, Gutmann also referred to the Mellon Mays Scholars program, which recruits undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to become faculty members.

“We’ve had considerable success in [recruiting students through Mellon Mays] and it’s also important that we continue a practice we just started recently of hiring our own graduate and post-doctoral students into faculty positions,” Gutmann said.

The Progress Report on Penn’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence , which was released in early February, noted that many schools within the University tracked whether students were interested in eventually becoming professors.

“Under the Action Plan, we expanded post-doc programs and we put more funding towards those, especially to diversify the group of Ph.D. students,” Gutmann said. “We’ve put more resources into expanding the pipeline.”

In the past, Penn and other Ivy League institutions were hesitant to hire their own students in order to ensure a diversity of ideas among faculty, Gutmann recalled.

“Now we have a much more diverse student body and it’s a good thing to hire the best person you can get,” she said. “And if the best person is one of your students, we feel we should hire them.”

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