PFF Spotlight: Daniele Bologna
Daniele Bologna was used to being the boss. Before he joined the University of Cincinnati as a doctoral candidate in psychology, he had managed an Italian restaurant, overseen an Ideal Fitness gym and served as president of the Xavier University Graduate Student Association. But when he came to UC, he found himself leading an entirely different set of "employees"... undergraduate students, eager and willing to learn in his Organizational Behavior course. "I had never taught a class before, and now I wasn't just a TA, I was the instructor of record. That was a little overwhelming for me," he recalls.
Now with twelve courses under his instructional belt, Bologna is a seasoned lecturer. He hopes to become a professor of industrial and organizational psychology at a college of business and teach as a major part of his career. When asked how he made the transition from newbie teacher to expert educator, he mentions three letters: PFF. They stand for Preparing Future Faculty, a program of classes, workshops and mentoring that readies students for the demands of academia.
Bologna saw a PFF advertisement for "Teach Me to Teach," an all-day workshop hosted by the Graduate Association for Teaching Enhancement at UC's Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. This teaching boot camp provided the basics of effective instruction and brought in an undergraduate panel to give new teachers insight from their toughest critics. "The undergrads said that grad students tend to be less organized and bring in lower levels of expertise [than professors]," Bologna says, and he tried to counter that stereotype from his first day. Instead of assembling his lesson plans on a weekly basis, he took the time to outline and organize before the semester got underway.
All UC students can participate in PFF activities such as these affiliated workshops, but those who enroll in PFF as an academic program work toward a graduate certificate that appears on their transcripts. They also become part of a teaching community that Bologna says is invaluable for first-time instructors. "As a new teacher, what caught me off-guard the most was just how on your own you are," he explains. In contrast, PFF students communicate about teaching in two required courses, Teaching Effectiveness and Academic Job Search, and reading groups that are offered throughout the year.
PFF also helps students navigate their lives as faculty outside of the classroom. Academic Job Search Process, for example, describes the benefits and drawbacks of teaching at different types of institutions. Bologna says this class confirmed his desire to teach at a large research university, but other students learned they would fit better at a community college or liberal arts school. The course emphasizes time management as well, which is crucial training for the many responsibilities of faculty positions. "It would be fantastic to spend 100 hours preparing for a three-hour course, but that has opportunity costs in terms of your research and service requirements as an academic," he says.
To strengthen his own job search, Bologna chose Joel Koopman, an assistant professor of management at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, as his PFF mentor. While a typical PFF mentoring experience involves close feedback on the student's teaching, Bologna had already taught numerous courses by the time he started to work with Koopman. Instead, the two organized a plan to help Bologna transition from his current psychology department to a college of business. By talking to other faculty who have successfully made that leap and analyzing differences in how courses are taught between departments, he hopes to become a more competitive applicant for his desired jobs.
"Pretty much anyone you talk to in my department would say that I'm a raving fan of PFF," Bologna says with a laugh. In fact, he and a small team of fellow students are helping the psychology department develop its own PFF-like discussion group where student instructors can share their challenges and successes. But he says there's no substitute for the cross-disciplinary community of support that the program offers for new teachers. "You might share a PFF classroom with a chemistry doctoral student, an English doctoral student and an engineering master's student. We're all training to become academics and learning how to stand on our own two feet."