A central aim of the Fellows program is to provide a successful transition from graduate school to life as an independent teacher/scholar in a liberal arts setting. This transition is difficult for many. It has long been acknowledged that graduate programs typically do not (with a few notable exceptions) train their students to excel as teachers. Rather, the emphasis is on scholarly production, usually with a highly specialized focus. After obtaining their first job, new PhDs are often thrown into the deep end of the academic pool, asked (especially at liberal arts colleges) to juggle intensive teaching loads with community service demands and the need to establish an independent research program in a new setting. All of this tends to occur with a rather limited amount of support.

+ Read More

The Lawrence Fellows program addresses some of the difficulties of making the transition from graduate school to life at a liberal arts college simply by the way the position is structured. A lower teaching load leaves Fellows more time to construct an independent scholarly program and to adapt it to the liberal arts college setting. Freed from worries about reappointment and tenure (because the position is temporary), Fellows can focus on career development and be more selective about accepting community service requests.

Rather than taking a “sink or swim” approach, the Fellows program involves a coordinated development plan. The broad outline of our approach is to: a) immediately and consistently prompt the Fellows to reflect upon and set both short-term and long-term goals for themselves as teachers and scholars, b) help Fellows to construct an individually tailored (specific and realistic) plan for achieving those goals, c) consistently assess Fellows’ progress in meeting their self-defined goals (both through self-assessment and feedback from others, such as students, peers, and faculty mentors). This approach recognizes that academic life is complex and involves a great deal of autonomy, requiring faculty members to develop their own goals and ways of achieving them.

We recognize, however, that even though each individual must take his or her own path, there are common challenges all faculty members face (e.g., how to balance teaching and research, how to get a reticent student to talk in class, etc.) and that experienced faculty members can serve as advisors and guides. Fellows are not  left on their own to reinvent the wheel, but  have the support of peers and of faculty mentors who aid them in setting realistic goals and plans to attain those goals.

Additionally, goal setting and planning works best when there is subsequent feedback about goal attainment. Fellows are not only periodically asked to reflect on their progress toward self-defined goals, but  also receive systematic feedback from others. Faculty mentors observe Fellows teach (at least once each term) and give both written and oral feedback. Mentors also review and discuss Fellows’ self-evaluations and goals with their assigned Fellows.

The Fellows' mentoring program is integrated with our mentoring program for new tenure-track faculty.  This program includes dinners, discussion of important issues in the life of faculty, and opportunities to share concerns with veteran faculty who serve as mentors.



Each Fellow has a faculty mentor in his or her department, typically the faculty member who supervised the interview and hiring process for the department (building upon this initial familiarity and relationship). Mentors must be tenure-track (preferably, but not necessarily already tenured) members of the teaching faculty. The main purpose of mentoring is to aid in the Fellow’s self-defined professional development. Because good mentoring is time-consuming, we encourage structures that facilitate mentoring while also benefiting or in some manner compensating the mentor. For example, co-teaching with a Fellow can ease the mentor’s teaching load while simultaneously providing ample opportunity to observe the Fellow’s teaching, discuss pedagogy, assess strengths and weaknesses, etc.

+ Lawrence’s Current Tenure-Track Mentoring Program

Lawrence’s current mentoring program for tenure-track faculty deliberately pairs new faculty members with faculty in another department. This choice was made for several reasons: a) it is assumed that mentoring within the department occurs anyway, b) by going outside the department new faculty members form contacts with people they might not otherwise interact with, and c) new faculty feel reassured that there is sufficient separation between mentoring (aimed at development) and evaluation.

Lawrence’s current mentoring system for tenure-track faculty has one formal element, mentoring dinners (attended by newer faculty, their mentors, and the Dean and Associate Dean of Faculty) that typically consist of one or two established faculty members speaking to a predetermined issue (e.g., how to balance scholarship and teaching) followed by a group discussion. Faculty currently view the dinners as being useful. Fellows and their mentors participate in these sessions.

+ Fellows Mentoring Program

In contrast to the existing mentoring program for tenure-track faculty, we have chosen for Fellows to have mentors within the department because: a) the Fellows program encourages overlap of interests between Fellows and department faculty that would not be “affordable” with tenure-track hires, creating more natural pairings of Fellows with faculty (with whom they may collaborate on teaching and research); b) Fellows are not tenurable, so that any concern about whether a department member is more of an “evaluator” than a mentor is mitigated, and c) because Fellows will soon be on the job market, they are likely to benefit the most from the advice of someone in their field.

+ Fellows Retreat at Bjorklunden

The Fellows and (if possible) faculty mentors attend the new faculty retreat weekend at Bjorklunden in the Fall. This retreat is integrated with activities involving new tenure-track faculty.  The purpose of this weekend is to share and discuss Fellows’ self-assessments and goals, with the ultimate aim of defining both individualized plans and common programming (e.g., peer discussion) throughout the academic year to reach those goals. Consistent with the general approach of the development program, Fellows are encouraged to shape the program in a way that best suits their needs. Mentors  provide encouragement, ideas, and advice based on their knowledge of the faculty role and the resources of the institution, but in a manner that is collaborative and supportive rather than prescriptive or condescending.

The weekend also serves as a bonding experience for new faculty. The Bjorklunden property is located in Door County, Wisconsin, an area noted for its natural beauty. The Bjorklunden lodge is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The setting is serene and private, perfect for a retreat. Bjorklunden weekends begin Friday night and end Sunday after lunch. In addition to the serious business of planning, there is time for relaxation, hiking, and informal conversation.

+ Discussions of Self-Assessments and Goals

Fellows complete a set of self-assessment and goal-setting documents upon joining the Lawrence community.  Fellows  provide their mentors with updated self-assessments (including progress toward goals) in subsequent terms. These documents should also be the basis for meetings between mentors and Fellows that focus on the Fellow’s development as teacher and scholar.

+ Classroom Observation

Fellows are encouraged to invite mentors to observe the Fellow in the classroom.  Mentors are expected to discuss the observed session with the Fellow. We also encourage mentors to invite Fellows to observe their classes and subsequently to discuss these experiences together. Mentors may also help to arrange for Fellows to observe other faculty members’ classes, based on the Fellow’s particular interests or needs. For example, a Fellow who wishes to learn more about leading class discussion might be directed toward a faculty member noted for doing this well.

+ Program Evaluation

Program evaluation is an important feature of the Fellows program and the method by which it will improve. Both Fellows and mentors are asked to cooperate in program evaluation by submitting copies of materials (self-assessments, classroom observation forms, etc.), as requested, to the Committee. They are also  asked to evaluate the success of the program in annual reports submitted as part of the University's program of annual reports from all faculty.


Peer Support

Consistent with the principle that Fellows  actively direct their own development, promoting the skills that will help them become successful independent teachers and scholars, peer support is a significant component of the Fellows development program. Fellows bring a variety of levels of experience, particular skills and talents, and their own expertise that can be shared with their peers. For instance, in our first group of eight Fellows, prior teaching experience ranged widely, with some having little experience and other having helped to train fellow graduate students to teach. An exciting and distinctive aspect of the Fellows program is that it brings together a sizable group of people who can support and mentor each other.

+ Other Development Resources

Fellows have access to any other professional development activities, opportunities, or resources offered by other University committees and offices. The Committee on Teacher Development offers a variety of discussion groups and workshops related to teaching. The Center for Teaching and Learning offers resources to aid in teaching development (e.g., books on pedagogy) and self-assessment (e.g., videotaping of classes so that Fellows can view themselves teaching).


Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube LarryU