WMU News

WMU leads effort to improve faculty preparation

Sept. 23, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- The National Communication Association has chosen Western Michigan University's Department of Communication to lead one of four national projects aimed at preparing future faculty.

Directed by Dr. Shirley A. Van Hoeven, WMU professor of communication, the grant-funded initiative will use on-site visits to provide classroom-bound graduate students exposure to a variety of institutional environments with differing missions, faculty and student populations.

Van Hoeven says all too often students in master's and doctoral programs are prepared for their role as researchers with little attention focused on their ability to teach. The goal of this program is to make sure students are not only familiar with the different teaching environments, but also to give them insights into the teaching experience.

"We feel that the master's level is the time to really motivate and inspire future professors," Van Hoeven explains. "By the time a student gets to a doctoral program, it's pretty late to find out that he or she doesn't want to be a teacher."

While WMU is leading the effort, partner institutions playing host to site visits include Wayne State University, Michigan State University, Ball State University, Hope College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Van Hoeven says the five institutions were selected because of their wide diversity and their close proximity to WMU.

Throughout the 1997-98 academic year, WMU graduate students involved in the program will visit these institutions, attending large and small classes, observing teaching techniques and meeting fellow graduate students, faculty and administrators to discuss such things as teaching load, tenure and promotion, and service expectations.

The ultimate goal is to build future exchange programs with these partner universities. WMU was one of a select group of universities that won NCA funding through the Planning Future Communication Faculty Program. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Howard University and Bowling Green State University also had projects selected.

"This is the first time the NCA has made awards of this kind available to individual institutions," says Dr. Jody D. Nyquist, chairperson of the steering committee for the NCA's Preparing Future Faculty Program. "The WMU project is significant because it's being done by a discipline (communication) and it's one of the few places different kinds of institutions are working together to prepare future faculty. We have great expectations for this initiative."

The NCA initiative is part of the much larger Planning Future Faculty Program coordinated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The National Communication Association is the oldest and largest organization representing communication faculty.

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