The Academic Interview Day 1

The Department of Psychology is hiring. The position is for an FSO Teaching and Learning. “FSO” stands for Faculty Service Officer, an academic position that’s kind of a catch-all for a lot of varied things. For example, in psychology, there are currently two FSOs: one person who handles the department’s intranet, manages the psychology workshop, and deals with various research issues; the other person runs the psychology internship program.

This new position is about teaching and learning, which is right up my alley, so naturally I applied for it. It is also a tenured position. These kinds of jobs don’t come around often; I know that a lot of contract instructors with PhDs in psychology applied for it. It’s amazing that in this current budget climate, the Faculty of Science is willing and able to fund this position. I think that speaks volumes to the Faculty’s commitment to teaching and learning.

I am pleased to report that I was chosen to be interviewed (as was one other person; and there is apparently one other candidate being interviewed in a couple of weeks).

Let me step you through the application process. There are a number of documents that you have to submit. At the top of the list is your CV (“curriculum vitae,” which is basically your academic resume). You have to ensure that you CV is up to date with your most important accomplishments, publications, awards, etc. A teaching dossier is also required, which includes your philosophy of teaching, approach to pedagogy, and so on. To support this, it’s important to include some course syllabi and the results of student evaluations (USRIs: Universal Student Ratings of Instruction). Then, you have to find three people to write you academic letters of reference that speak to your ability to manage projects, teach effectively, get along with others in a team or group, and so on. Lastly, you have to write a cover letter. That’s just the paperwork.

I’ve been on screening committees before, so I know how this works. Part of it is to weed out people who can’t complete the paperwork. If you are unable to find three people willing and able to write you letters of reference and send them in by a deadline, that sends up a red flag. And if you don’t include documentation about how students view your teaching, what’s up with that? Teaching will be an important component of this position, in two ways. First, this FSO position is about leadership in teaching, which means supporting the Department of Psychology’s teaching mission. That might mean working with Contract Academic Staff: Teaching or tenured faculty to apply new teaching techniques in their classes. Or it could include training graduate students who may be teaching their very first course. Secondly, the FSO will be required to teach two courses per year. That would be a huge reduction for me, as I currently have to teach eight as a Faculty Lecturer. I had to think long and hard about applying for this position; teaching fewer courses was a big downside for me. I love teaching, and it has come to define how I think of myself. To consider changing that was very difficult. The lure of a tenured position is strong, though. Finally, there is also an administrative and service workload--which means being on a lot of committees.

The interview process is not like what you’d expect for a typical job. You don’t come in, talk to the hiring committee for an hour, and then leave. Oh no. My “interview” was a day and a half long (plus a dinner on yet another day). Two major components are an open presentation, and a guest lecture. The presentation is where you talk about your ideas for what you might do if you get the job. This lasts an hour, and includes time for questions (the scary part). I chose to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of teaching in the Department. Think about that: I’m potentially criticizing the people who are considering hiring me. Yikes. I then talked a bit about various trends and buzzwords in pedagogy (MOOCs anyone? Flipped classrooms?) and briefly evaluated them. The people at my presentation (faculty, graduate students, administrators) took it pretty easy on me. Or maybe I just rendered them comatose with my Powerpoints. Zap!

(Sorry about being circumspect in describing my presentation, but there is still one other candidate who will make a presentation in a few weeks. It’s in my own best interest to not say too much. Maybe I’ll post my presentation at some point in the future.)

A few faculty members requested meetings with me. So, after my presentation, off I went to six half-hour meetings in a row. Everyone offered me coffee, which I declined. (That’s all I need: six cups of coffee in a row. That’s enough to make me vibrate.) Everyone had different things that they wanted to discuss. Some of them were casual chats; others were serious discussions about the future of teaching and learning on campus. These meetings are not part of the formal job interview; however, after talking to me, these faculty members will generally give feedback to the hiring committee about my ideas. You have to be “on” all the time, make a good impression, and know your stuff.

That was day 1 of my interview. Well, half a day, anyway. It took place on a Friday. Now I had a whole weekend to stew about my performance, and get ready for day 2 the following Monday.

Next: Day 2, in which actual bridges play a role.

Why aren’t you studying?


Anonymous said...

I hope you get the job!

Anonymous said...

Good luck, man!

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