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NEW FACULTY ORIENTATION AND THE FIRST DAYS

By Adam Overland

Ann Philbrick
Ann Philbrick, assistant professor in pharmaceutical care and health

October 7, 2009

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus is expansive, to say the least. With more than 60 miles of campus streets and sidewalks, and nearly 70,000 students, faculty, and staff, it’s bigger than most Minnesota towns.

Finding one’s way around the U can be a task. Couple that with a new job and you've got anxiety. That's why in 2006 the U created a comprehensive, three-day orientation for new faculty.

Each day of orientation is held on one of the Twin Cities campuses--the East Bank, the West Bank, and St. Paul. Ann Philbrick, assistant professor in pharmaceutical care and health, attended fall 2008 orientation. While she's based on the East Bank, Philbrick was glad for the introduction to the whole picture. "It was really nice to at least get to see the St. Paul campus,” she says. “It's gorgeous over there."

Philbrick came to the U from out-of-state after doing her pharmacy residency in Iowa, and prior to that had lived in fairly small communities. She says, "It's tough getting your feet wet in a new place. I essentially moved here for this job." This past summer, she set her roots a little deeper in Minnesota. "I bought a house in St. Paul earlier this summer, so I plan to stay."

And that's important to the University. Research has shown a link between orientation programs and the success of new and junior faculty members. Philbrick, for one, says she's already had lots of opportunities to get involved over the past year, but she’s learned to be careful about taking on too much, right away. "If you're at a loss for whether you should do something, go to your supervisor," she says. "They've invested in you for the long-term, and they want you to be the best faculty you can be, but they also don't want you to get worn out."

Daheia Barr-AndersonDaheia Barr-Anderson, assistant professor in kinesiologyDaheia Barr-Anderson, assistant professor in kinesiology, already had some experience with the U when she was appointed a faculty member in 2008. Barr-Anderson did her postdoctoral work in community health at the U's School of Public Health’s division of epidemiology. But even after being here for two years, she says, the orientation helped. "I knew a decent amount of information, but the orientation made me realize just how much I do not know about all the different resources and services available to me at the U, so it was three days well spent."

Barr-Anderson says that part of her agreement with the U was that she would be released from teaching her first year. "I wanted to be able to have the time to transition properly,” she says. "I enjoy teaching, but my research is much stronger." Barr-Anderson has had two grants funded during her first year, with one through the Powell Center for Women’s Health. She's using that three-year career development award to examine social and physical environmental influences on physical activity and diet in African American girls ages 11-18.
Dylan MilletDylan Millet, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry
Dylan Millet, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry, in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, came to Minnesota following a postdoctoral appointment at Harvard. Attending orientation in August 2008 gave him useful information and good contacts. "It's nice to make some connections with new faculty across campus,” Millet says. “With more than [4,000] faculty one could easily spend a career here and not have met them otherwise."

Orientation also provides practical information for junior faculty. Day one, for example, tackles student issues and diversity, day two focuses on teaching and learning, and day three on research. "I found the workshop on effective lecturing to be very helpful," says Millet.

Millet's first year has been consumed with research. He published a paper in Environmental Science & Technology using aircraft measurements to quantify emissions of banned halocarbons from the United States and Mexico and calculating their contribution to global warming. By getting answers in orientation to the question "How do I submit a grant?" Millet was off to quick start. (For more about Millet and his research, read "A welcoming climate.")

Of course, for many new and junior faculty, orientation is just the beginning of their adventure at the University of Minnesota. After the three days are up, the flow of information continues from these faculty to every knowledge seeker who will read their research or pass through their classes.

Philbrick, who was in residency little more than a year ago, now has a student working with her on a project that the student will present at the American College of Clinical Pharmacy meeting in October. Philbrick says it's exciting but also a little surprising. She recalls, a little more than a year ago, asking her own mentor in Iowa how a person ever gets to that point. "To see me transition from this person into that person who is mentoring someone else…it's something I never imagined. It's kind of scary."

Faculty new to the University have ongoing support in their departments and colleges, as well as in the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs via ongoing lunches and workshops. And plans are already under way for next fall’s New Faculty Orientation, scheduled for August 24, 25 and 26, 2010.


New faculty with questions can e-mail New Faculty Orientation.