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Tomorrow’s Professor Today (TPT) is a professional development program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Designed to facilitate the transition from student to academic professional, the program focuses on improving preparedness primarily in teaching at the college level, with additional emphases in professional development and adjustment to a university career. Activities to support this endeavor include participating in a hybrid course design seminar, attending workshops, observing faculty and peers teach, preparing teaching documents, and peer-mentoring fellow participants. The program divides these activities into introductory and advanced tiers.
Participants gain enhanced teaching abilities and credentials, are introduced to many of the responsibilities faced by university faculty and administrators, attain a more comprehensive understanding of how the various components (i.e., research, teaching, service) of their graduate or postgraduate experience relate to one another now and in their future careers, and become better prepared for the challenges they will face in their future careers at a university or college. Participants are awarded a certificate for each tier they complete, and a letter certifying their successful completion of the tier(s).
Now centrally-funded, the program was initially co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Engineering & Applied Science.
I’M INTERESTED IN TPT, BUT…
1. I’m not sure when to apply. When is the best time?
A formal call for enrollment occurs in late spring and fall of every year. The program must be kicked off by attending a new participant orientation session, to be held in August and January every year. Check How to Enroll for the most current dates.
2. I’ve only completed one year of my graduate studies. Is this program something that should be done early, or do you recommend that I apply when I have advanced more in my studies and have had some TA experience?
TPT is very flexible and can be completed at just about any stage of your academic career. The only real stipulation is that you are able to make time for the few mandatory requirements, e.g. attend the program orientation and August TAGS workshops, participate in the C3 Design online course design seminar, and attend one TPT-sponsored event per semester. Be sure to check out the How to Enroll for other requirements.
3. I only have one year left at UVA and will be searching for a full-time faculty/post-doc position next year. Should I bother applying to the program?
Before deciding whether to enroll in TPT, you should consider several factors, including your level of interest and motivation, how much time you’ll have to devote to the program, how far along you are in your professional development, and how helpful the program will be for your future career. It may best for you to utilize the information on the TPT website, complete the activities most relevant to your career and skip the formal program. Or, you may find the idea of joining an interdisciplinary cohort of participants with similar interests in an academic career appealing, even with a shortened timeframe. If, after careful consideration, you remain interested in the program, definitely enroll — Tier 1 is designed to be completed in one year, and it is possible to complete both Tier 1 and Tier 2 in one year as well.
4. The timeline suggests I would need two years to complete the program and I’m graduating next year. Is it possible to complete the program requirements in one year?
Tomorrow’s Professor Today was designed to be as flexible as possible; thus, it is possible to complete the program in one year. Of course, this requires dedication on the part of the participant since the final year of graduate school is typically spent writing the dissertation and searching for a job, among other time-consuming activities. Please contact a program administrator for more information about successfully completing the program at an accelerated pace.
5. What happens if it takes me longer than two years to complete the program?
The academic lives of graduate students differ vastly from discipline to discipline. Realizing this, we anticipate individual’s progress through TPT will take on many forms. The proposed two-year timeline represents just one of myriad possibilities which allow participants to complete the program with a manageable time commitment. Taking longer than two years to complete the program is okay.
6. I’ve already completed some of the program requirements. If accepted, do I have to complete these again?
You may have already completed some of the program requirements prior to entering TPT, such as TAGS (the Teaching as a Graduate Student workshop). Some of these do not have to be repeated. Please contact a program administrator for details on which program components must be completed during your tenure in the program.
7. I’m often away from the University during the year. Is this a problem?
As mentioned above, TPT was designed to be as flexible as possible. The initial orientation meeting, TAGS, and the in-person meetings that accompany the C3 Design online course design module are the only required face-to-face meetings. There are other requirements you must fulfil, but these can often be completed while off-grounds. Keep in mind, however, that one of the real benefits of the program comes from interacting with other participants. If you need to be off-grounds for a considerable amount of time, you may want to consider holding off on enrolling in the program until a year or semester when you are able to be present at UVA most of the time.
8. I’m not sure I want to work in an academic position after my graduate studies. Is it worthwhile to participate in the program?
Tier 1 of TPT is designed as a broad introduction to teaching in higher education, so if you’re wondering whether an academic career is right for you, TPT can help you make your decision. The program also provides a glimpse into many other facets of traditional academic positions via its optional components, including administration, publishing, advising, etc. Consequently, it is the perfect program to help you decide whether such positions suit you.
9. I see that teaching is a program requirement, but there aren’t any teaching opportunities in my department. Does this exclude me from the program?
Depending on the discipline, teaching responsibilities for graduate students can be limited to office hours or grading; in some cases, formal opportunities to teach are non-existent. We recognize this disciplinary difference, but also know that teaching is one of the primary—and most challenging—responsibilities new faculty face. Thus, TPT has a modest teaching requirement of 3 hours in Tier 1, and 5 hours in Tier 2. If no formal teaching opportunities exist in your department, you can fulfill the requirement in non-traditional ways.
Previous TPT participants who have not had formal teaching opportunities have fulfilled their teaching requirements in the following ways: guest lecturing or other forms of guest teaching; leading a discussion section or lab; conducting a workshop; and working in programs such as the UVA Transition Program, Summer Enrichment Program, or summer language institute. It is important that your teaching experience involve designing and planning instruction at the college level. For this reason, experience in primary and secondary schools, or working as a grader, does not count toward the TPT teaching requirement.
10. I’m not able to participate in the formal program, but I’d like to use some of the materials on the website and attended workshops offered by the TRC. Can I do so?
We encourage you to utilize the materials on the program website to help you address your specific professional development needs. Unfortunately, you will not be able to take advantage of some of the components of TPT nor receive a certificate of completion.
Note: The vast majority of CTE workshops are open and free to the university community.
11. I’m applying for jobs. Will the program administrators write recommendation letters for TPT participants?
Unfortunately, no. When we began the TPT Program, we anticipated requests for references and letters of recommendation and had to make a difficult decision about our policy on this. We decided that our standard practice would be not to write recommendation letters or serve as references for TPT participants. Our policy is not at all personal, and we wish you the best in your job search. Because the TPT program is so large, we had to determine a way to be fair to all the participants and to be realistic about our time and ability to give the kind of specific information about anyone that would make an excellent recommendation.
We’ve heard from enough recent job candidates to know that a recommendation, even a recommendation about teaching, carries more weight if it comes from someone in your field, particularly from someone who has worked with you and can speak to how you teach courses in your subject. That is a primary reason why the program includes program advisors. As someone who is aware of what you’ve been doing in the program, your program advisor would be a good person to ask to observe your teaching, to discuss it with, and to ask to please include information about your teaching in a recommendation or reference.
When you complete the program, we will provide you with a letter explaining the general premise of the program that you could include in any packet or give a job search committee to explain what you did as a participant.
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