Professional Development Forum

Perspectives of early career scholars: APA session on the opportunities for prospective faculty

The author discusses the additional challenges of faculty positions brought about by a shortage of school psychology practitioners and trainers

By Amanda L. Sullivan and Bryn Harris

Few people outside of the academy understand the roles and nuances of faculty positions. Even graduate students who spend many years in school working alongside faculty advisors may not fully understand the career paths their professors have chosen. As the field of school psychology faces an ongoing shortage of new faculty entering the field, attracting potential scholars is key. For several years, it has been noted that there are more open positions than there are qualified prospective candidates. Graduate students and practitioners are not entering academia at the rate needed to maintain faculty positions in school psychology (Clopton and Haselhuhn, 2009). This is problematic given the field of school psychology is dependent upon well-qualified faculty members who can prepare practitioners. One way to improve this trend is to provide targeted professional development for potential future faculty.

Research demonstrates that even those graduate students interested in academic careers receive little information about the roles and responsibility of faculty (Nagle, Suldo, Christenson, & Hansen, 2004). Students may also be unaware of the diversity of positions available for school psychology faculty. Roles, duties, and expectations can vary substantially by institution type, location, program type, and college and department culture. Often, students may only be relatively knowledgeable of the types of positions they see in their own graduate program, which may or may not inspire them to pursue a similar post-graduate positions. Because students’ opportunities to learn about this career path are limited, targeted efforts are needed to attract prospective faculty.

Four school psychology faculty have come together to share their perspectives on the diversity of faculty positions in the symposium, Preparing for Faculty Careers in School Psychology: Perspectives for Early Career Scholars, at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. Sponsored by Division 16, this session will provide a forum for junior faculty from different institutions and programs to share their perspectives on effectively entering academic careers in school psychology.

“Just as there is a shortage of school psychology practitioners, so also is there a critical shortage of school psychology trainers,” notes session chair, David Shriberg of Loyola University Chicago. “One barrier to students entering academia is that, no matter how strong their particular graduate program might be, it is often very challenging to get a bigger picture sense of the pros and cons of an academic career in school psychology. It also can be quite daunting to think through the steps required to pursue and launch a successful academic career in school psychology. The goal of this symposium is to demystify this process, provide commentary on the common benefits and pitfalls of the academic life, and to provide helpful, concrete strategies for being a successful faculty member from the vantage point of happy and productive school psychology academics at different career stages in different types of universities.”

Another objective of this APA symposium is to highlight the flexibility and independence inherent in faculty positions. Four early career scholars—Bryn Harris of the University of Colorado Denver, Jocelyn Newton of the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, Julia Ogg of the University of South Florida, and Amanda Sullivan of the University of Minnesota—will discuss their experiences as new faculty in school psychology. Their positions vary in the extent to which research, teaching, service, and practice are emphasized, reflecting the diversity of opportunities available in this field. Beyond scholarship and teaching, panelists will discuss their roles in field supervision, direct service, and mentoring.

“I hope to impress upon attendees that there are many types of faculty positions, which all have unique characteristics,” Dr. Newton commented, “As a result, graduate students in school psychology who desire future careers in academia should carefully evaluate their preferences as they participate in research, teaching, clinical, and supervision experiences during their doctoral training and subsequently seek additional experiences aligned with their preference.” Each panelist in this session will address the unique qualifications and expectations of their respective positions, the training experiences and professional activities recommended for prospective faculty, and strategies for making the most of one’s early years in similar positions.

This symposium is intended to provide a forum for discussing the nature of faculty positions available to potential future faculty, and the preparation recommended for various avenues. As Dr. Harris commented, “In retrospect, I can see ways in which I could have been better prepared for this field. I hope to pass this insight onto others. I hope that participants will leave with more information about careers in academia in the field of school psychology such as our major activities and roles, appropriate preparation, and strategies for success after entering the field. I also hope that participants will continue this conversation with peers and colleagues at their respective institutions so that more knowledge is shared about this important topic.” Such preparation is central to the early acclimation and success of new faculty.

Anyone interested in learning more about academic positions is encouraged to attend this event. This interactive session will provide the opportunity for individuals to learn more about faculty roles and to engage in discussions with panelists. Questions regarding this session should be directed to Amanda Sullivan or Bryn Harris.

References

Clopton, K.L., & Haselhuhn, C.W. (2009). School psychology trainer shortage in the US A: Current status and projections for the future. School Psychology International, 30, 24-42.

Nagle, R. J., Suldo, S.M., Christenson, S. L., Hansen, A. L. (2004). Graduate students’ perspectives of academic positions in school psychology. School Psychology Quarterly, 19, 311-326.