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Program explores inside track to academic job market

March 10, 2010

Students who aspire to a faculty position after graduation may find fierce competition for academic posts. ASU doctoral graduate Meghna Sabharwal is proof that you can defy the odds even in a tough job market.

She said it wasn’t luck that landed her a tenure-track position as assistant professor at University of Texas-Dallas, but a concrete plan that began with the ASU Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program.

“PFF provided me with tools that helped me navigate the academic job market,” Sabharwal said. “If not for PFF, I would not have been able to put together a competent job packet and navigate through the challenging interview process with relative calm and ease.”

The critical components of her job packet – a curriculum vitae (CV), teaching statement and research philosophy – were developed during her two years in the PFF program.

“I also became aware of the different steps involved in applying for an academic job, tips for interviewing, the negotiation process, and the road to tenure and beyond.”

“PFF is designed to give students an inside advantage in succeeding in their first academic position,” said Joan Brett, associate vice provost at the Graduate College. “Faculty roles – including research/scholarship, teaching and service – can differ from institution to institution, from a small liberal arts college to a large public research university. PFF helps graduate students prepare for the specific job they are seeking in academia, and it gives them a leg up in a competitive job market.

“The March 22 deadline is fast approaching,” she said. “Students and their advisers need to act quickly to be considered for the fall semester.”

Admission to PFF is competitive and requires adviser approval and completion of one year of a doctoral or MFA program by the start of the fall semester. PFF is a two-year course (one credit each year), consisting of a first-year Exploratory Phase and a second-year Participatory Phase.

Exploratory workshops and discussions focus on subjects such as CV preparation, grant writing, negotiating a job offer, technology and new media, promotion and tenure, and includes seminars with ASU faculty as well as virtual visits with faculty from other universities.

PFFs Participatory year delves deeper into preparation for applying at the institution of choice. Activities can include mock interviews, learning to network, and a faculty mentor who will review your plan and offer feedback.

“In this tough job market, employers are looking for a colleague who is ready to navigate the waters without much help; someone who has a research agenda already in place,” Sabharwal said. “This program is invaluable.”

PFF workshops, as well as faculty mentoring and review of her CV, cover letter and teaching statement, makes “enrolling in PFF the best decision I made,” she said.

The deadline for the fall semester PFF program is 8 a.m., March 22. Application materials and more information are available at