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SC17-017: The Academic Life: An NSF-Sponsored Faculty Development Workshop

Pamela Abshire, University of Maryland
Jennifer Blain Christen, Arizona State University
Nicole McFarlane, University of Tennessee
Maira Samary, Boston College
Stephen D. Senturia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emeritus

Virtual attendance now available – please register here

The Academic Life Faculty-Development Workshops are designed for those either already in or seeking STEM-oriented careers in academia. Our goal is to explore aspects of academic life that can be shrouded in privacy and secrecy, and through discussion of these issues, provide meaningful mentoring to aspiring academics.

The central theme of our workshops is that dramatizations can illustrate and highlight the challenges aspiring academics may face. Each unit includes extensive opportunities for discussion and sharing of personal experiences.

While these workshops grew out of an initial focus on gender issues, the broader set of topics now covered provide guidance to all who have a successful academic career as their goal.

NSF-sponsored Scholarship Aid is now available to cover the cost for the event. Click here to apply.

“The Academic Life” Faculty-Development Workshops are supported in part by the National Science Foundation under NSF Grant 1844528.

Program Details

Tenure: We present the dramatization Anatomy of a Tenure Case, based on a realistic but fictional tenure decision at a high-tech university. We follow the candidate and her mentor through the decision year, ending at the point at which the department must make a decision. We vote as a group, and discuss our votes.


Publications: Professor Senturia presents a lecture entitled “Why (and How to) Get Published: Wisdom from a Former Journal Editor.” It is based on his 36 years on the MIT Faculty, including 17 years as an editor, and discusses publication strategies, structuring good papers, and responding to peer reviews.


Peer Review: We present the dramatization Power and Plagiarism, in which a junior faculty person is asked to review a paper submitted by a very senior person, and there are questions about the originality of the submitted work.

Microaggressions: The term “microaggressions” refers to behaviors, intended or not, that are hurtful to individuals. Our dramatization, On the Receiving End, features a female junior faculty member who talks to her mother and then to friend about what could be called a really bad day at work.


Imposter Syndrome: Every professional has at one time or another worried about whether he or she is qualified for their own position. That self-doubt is often called “The Imposter Syndrome.” Our dramatization Am I an Impostor is based on a real incident from one of our presenters, and offers some guidance on how to deal with such situations.

Closing: Participants are asked to fill out an anonymous survey critiquing the workshop, and, as a thank-you, will receive a signed and inscribed copy of One Man’s Purpose, the novel by Professor Senturia on which several of our dramatizations are based.