Christine Pitner, Courtney Faber
The primary objective of this session was to give women engineers an idea of what an academic career is like from the perspective of women at various stages of the academic career pathway. The panel consisted of four women including two assistant professors, an associate professor, and a post-doc currently searching for an academic position. These panelists gave great advice about everything from obtaining an academic career to raising a family while in academia.
As a graduate student, you are able to get a pretty good idea of what it would be like to be a professor at a Research I institution, but we rarely hear about Masters level institutions. This panel had two professors from Masters I institutions who were able to give the audience an idea of what it would be like to be a professor at one of these institutions as opposed to a Research I school. The most notable piece of advice they gave is that if you love teaching you should look into masters level school and if research is what you love then you should look into research I schools.
In addition to explaining their experiences in their profession, the panelists delved deeper and provided their thought processes for when they were making the decision as what school they would like to be a professor in. This insight was particularly valuable, as several of the women in the audience were nearing completion of their PhD career and approaching that stage in of the process. Since there were also several members of the audience who were seniors in college who were considering graduate school as their next step, the panelists also explained why they chose higher education versus industry, and what they looked for when they were considering when looking at graduate schools to apply to, as well as what to ask when actually visiting/tour the school upon acceptance.
Another value topic of discussion during the panel was adjunct professors. There were a handful of women in the audience who were currently in industry, and were considering either transitioning to academia via an adjunct professorship or were interested in a part-time job as an adjunct professor. Since one of the panelists had been an adjunct professor at one point of time and another panelist was involved in the process of selecting/accepting adjunct professors, a lot of information was shared regarding this topic, and those in the audience considering this path left satisfied.
Probably one the best components of the panelist, though, is the panelists’ interest in helping the attendees. All of the panelists shared their contact information with the audience, and encouraged them to email should they have additional questions down the road. Thus, the support network established by session allowed the audience to leave with not only a good session experience, but with knowledgeable and caring mentors who had been in the same situation as them.