The PFF Program is Cultivating the Next Generation of Educators

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

Dr. Mack working with a student he mentors in the program.

The Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program is the secret sauce that anyone aspiring to teach at the collegiate level needs. The UC PFF program spans the disciplines and gives participants a leg up as they prepare for their future careers in academia. 

The PFF program is a three-tiered, participatory program that takes students through focused reading groups, workshops, and other professional development exercises that are all designed to meet the needs of prospective teachers. This program is interdisciplinary in nature; expect to work with all kinds of folks from different backgrounds, industries, and career paths. Cory Whitworth, the PFF program coordinator, says, “The main commonality between the people who are in this program is that they really want to go the extra mile to prepare themselves for the career that they want as a future professor and future faculty member.” Participants should be self-motivated to learn more about teaching and to develop themselves professionally; the people who take part reap the benefits of expanding their skillset and experience-based education. In addition, having the decorative certificate from completing this nationally recognized program looks great on a resume. 

One of the big focuses of the PFF program this year, understandably so, is online instruction. We’re all adjusting to an online learning model – this year more than any before – and participants of the PFF program will gain the skills to successfully lead an online class. Many professors have had to adjust to teaching online on the fly with little (and sometimes no) prior experience in online courses and curriculum. The PFF program’s workshops and reading groups prepare participants for this, as online learning becomes increasingly normal. Other major topics that the PFF program is tackling this semester include course design, crafting syllabi, equity, inclusion, multiculturalism, and plagiarism, to name a few. 

The primary mode of delivery for most of the program’s content is the workshops, courses, and reading groups, all of which are being led through WebEx for the time being. The PFF program often partners with campus organizations or faculty members to conduct the workshops and courses. For example, the workshops this semester are led by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning (CET&L), a campus organization that specializes in working with future teachers and preparing them for their roles in education. Cory says, “We choose workshops that can benefit anyone trying to be a future faculty, and they’re not specific to one discipline.” 

A participant in the program working with an advisor in a reading group.

The reading groups are slightly more hands-on than the workshops, as participants take an active role in leading the session and facilitating discussion among other students on the readings for the given day. This leadership experience is key to the program, and the skills transfer directly to the classroom. The program also has a job search component that has been a huge takeaway for past participants, which is delivered through the Academic Job Search course (PD8042; offered in the spring). In addition, the Teaching Effectiveness course (PD8041; offered in the fall) focuses on best practices in teaching and on curating an electronic teaching portfolio. Completion of these two courses is required to progress from the Participant tier to the Fellow tier of the program. 

One other integral aspect of the PFF program is the mentorship experience, which pairs participants with a faculty member at a peer institution. Mentors reinforce the content with real-world knowledge and experience. Cory says the mentors are “there to help with guiding not only the teaching experience, but there’s also the service component to it as well. It’s kind of a cumulative experience that isn’t just about teaching, but about giving a holistic look of the faculty experience.”

All activities that participants take part in add to their “activity points,” which track their progress through the three tiers of the program: Participant, Fellow, and Graduate. On the value of the program, Cory says, “It definitely adds a lot to your skillset and experience, and it’s a nationally recognized program, so it would definitely be great for anyone’s portfolio.” Check out the participation tiers page for a specific breakdown of how to navigate and progress through the program.

To read testimonials of the program’s value from current and former members of the program, visit the Why PFF? page. Be sure to check out the FAQ page to answer any lingering questions you many have, and to join the PFF program, complete the application and submit an official letter of recommendation to