Conference will stress faculty teaching and research

by Tom Lopez

Students often complain that professors don’t do a good enough job in the classroom because they are too concerned with their research. But a conference of graduate and professional students this spring aims to provide tomorrow’s professors with better teaching skills.
Students from across the Midwest will assemble at the University April 4-6 for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students’ regional conference. Susan Giesler Daniels, the vice president of Internal Relations in the Council of Graduate Students, said this year’s conference will address one of the most important issues facing graduate and professional students today: preparing the future of academia.
The program will “teach students to be good teachers, as well as good researchers. There are great minds in the research field, but a lot of them have no way of getting that information to students,” Giesler Daniels said.
This year’s theme, “Educating Our Future,” was decided upon by Giesler Daniels, who is coordinating the event. “(The theme) kind of sets the tone for what graduate students are striving for in today’s society,” she said. “There are only 17 future faculty programs in the country, and ours is one of the best.”
Jan Smith, the program director for Preparing Future Faculty, said the theme is a relevant one. “An important issue facing students is the marketplace for faculty and whether or not a graduate education is preparing students for that marketplace,” she said. “There is more to education than knowing your field, and that’s what the marketplace is currently expecting.”
Smith said research skills are important, but that other necessary skills include advising and teaching skills. “We need to think more carefully about how to place graduate students in careers, in order to make all the hard work worth it.”
Smith added that direct involvement with this issue by graduate students is one of the best ways to make graduate schools take note of students’ future needs.
The annual conference gives students a chance to learn from each other the best ways to achieve their goals, Giesler Daniels said. “Graduate students have the opportunity to talk to other students about how they got their foot in the door,” she said. “It’s peers helping peers.”
The event is tremendously important, said Tom Foster, the president of the Council of Graduate Students. “I really think this is going to be the hallmark of the academic year for graduate students. I’m very excited about it,” he added.
Giesler Daniels took the lead in coordinating the event when she volunteered the University as the host of the event at the last national meeting. She said this year’s theme of preparing future academia “was one of the most well-received programs at the National Conference. I have very high hopes for it.”
Smith said the University was a logical place for holding the conference. “Minnesota has made advances in preparing faculty that are significant,” she said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are currently ahead of most institutions in doing this.”
Giesler Daniels added that because the University is a renowned research institution with a metropolitan environment, it is a perfect backdrop for the conference. “Minnesota has so much to offer,” Giesler Daniels said. “And the conference is in April, so no one has to worry about wind chill.”