Starting an Academic Career

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Today Dr. Kevin Reimer, Dean of Humanities Religion and Social Sciences, Professor of Psychology, and who has taken on responsibility for guiding faculty development for the university, met with professors new to FPU to talk about how to create and sustain a professional academic career. Our work does not stop with the doctorate—that is the beginning of a vocation of intellectual inquiry and of bringing students into the world of knowledge and understanding. He was so right on the mark and practical with his “exhortation” to the professors who attended that I thought I would memorialize his advice for the rest of us.

  • Use the funding that is available to you. At FPU we have a professional development fund that all professors can use to attend conferences, make presentations, network in their field, and so on. We also have the “Provost’s Research Grant,” which at $600-1200 is often just enough to seed a project, visit a site for research, and shows outside funding agencies that there might be something their worth supporting.
  • “Get connected, stay connected.” Yes, yes, yes. Too often a professor becomes isolated and disconnected from colleagues and their profession. By getting out into the network, we find ways to continue to grow, develop, perform research, and bring liveliness back into the classroom. I never fail to find new ideas, and have my ideas tested when I am out among historians. As Kevin says, use what is available to “stay connected with your guild.” I might note that this is a medieval term, but I digress. Use the funding to stay connected and develop professionally.
  • To add to the importance of this, Christian institutions of higher education often suffer from a reputation for anti-intellectualism. This is sometimes deserved, but not these days in universities like Fresno Pacific where we have PhDs on the faculty from many of the best universities in the world. We have been trained well; we want to keep up our work in our intellectual disciplines and make a mark in our fields of research and study. This work starts in the very first year we begin our teaching career.
  • Use the initial funding to seed future and larger work. Pool funding with other colleague, at FPU or beyond. Develop an interdisciplinary project. When we get connected with others, we gain their connections as well. I might add to Kevin’s thoughts that we can often engage students in these smaller and the larger projects and connections. We enrich teaching and the student experience at the same time.
  • As we develop our work, show a “scholarly product.” This might start with a presentation, but should continue on to the peer-reviewed article or book. This helps establish credentials and shows “your ability to complete and disseminate a project.”
  • Look for outside funding. Interdisciplinary projects are possible and desirable and so are those between institutions—use that network. There are a number of agencies that will fund projects at an institution like FPU—the Templeton for one. But we have research that both students and faculty are working on funded by government agencies as well.

Kevin concluded with a reminder that this is the kind of work we enjoy, the research and study that energizes our minds and our teaching. Students who are able to work with us are stimulated intellectually and might find the calling in the intellectual disciplines. All of this builds and encourages the discussion on which universities thrive. It energizes faculty and students and brings depth to the classroom. Thanks, Kevin, for the good words.

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  • Jeff Nickel

    It is great to read how God has continued to lead Paks (as we all knew him as classmates and friends) through all these years! I remember Pakisa’s laugh — and his outgoing personality — and that day when we learned of his accident. But the Lord had his plans and it is evident in the telling of his story! Thank you, Dalton!
    Jeff Nickel BA ’77