PFTF Fellows 2013-2014

2013-2014 Professors for the Future Fellows

Enhancing the Early-Career Experience by Building a Cohesive Social Media Community at UC Davis

Holly Bik

Social Media tools are being increasingly recognized as critical devices for facilitating career advancement and promoting efficiency in research. However, many early-career researchers are unaware of the professional benefits that can result from using web resources and social media platforms. Even those who have dabbled in online interactions often feel overwhelmed, and find themselves unable to sustain long-term and meaningful use of web-based tools. Culture (campus culture as well as that within one’s research discipline) and time constraints are significant factors hindering the wider adoption of social media tools and online resources amongst scientists.

For my PFTF project at UC Davis, I have utilized a community-based approach to promote training and adoption of online activities carried out in a professional context. The project has consisted of two workshops (Winter and Spring quarters) providing conceptual overviews as well as hands-on training and experimentation with different online tools (Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc.). Workshops were supplemented by “Tweetups” (networking events that enable online users to socialize with each other in real life) and connected with other science communication events on campus, thus complementing and extending the goals of the formal training workshops. Pre- and Post-workshop surveys were used to assess participant goals and experiences, and all workshop materials were posted online as a freely available reference. By raising awareness of social media tools and promoting continued online interactions amongst participants, this PFTF project aimed to promote the growth of a unified online community for UC Davis researchers.  

Interdisciplinary Action: Developing Interdisciplinary Approaches in Academia and Pedagogy

Jamiella Brooks

Scientists do scientific work. Humanities do human culture work. Social sciences do societal work. This image of the disciplines is not only paltry, but it draws hard and fast lines between what our disciplines ‘should’ be doing, and what they shouldn’t. The issue is, many real world problems require approaches that aren’t limited by disciplines. Furthermore, a holistic approach strengthens our research and teaching, allowing us to think critically about how to engage our students, our work, and ourselves in a more complex academic framework.
For my PFTF project, I developed a series of interactive workshops drawing upon the resources of multiple disciplines to conceptualize an interdisciplinary approach, one which acknowledged both differences and threads of resonance across disciplines. This certificate-granting, two-part workshop series was held during Spring Quarter 2014. The first part of the workshop involved theorizing and defining both the disciplinary and the interdisciplinary. Workshop participants were first challenged to understand their own disciplines, and then worked outward to explore both what separates their disciplines from others while interrogating the ties that united them. The second workshop featured a panel of two graduate students and two professors who presented interdisciplinarity “on the ground” as it is realized in the classes they teach and research they do. Additionally, I shared my findings from interviews with professors across several academic institutions in the U.S. about their experiences, difficulties, and successes with implementing their interdisciplinary methods in their teaching and research.

As a way to synthesize and implement what was learned into a real project, participants created interdisciplinary-based outlines of a curriculum or activity. They offered compelling, fascinating curriculum outlines of interdisciplinary classes they would teach, including a course combining ecology science research and journalism, and a Spanish language course exploring socio-economic development in rural Latin American countries. These curriculum outlines will serve the graduate students well on the job market when they are asked to propose or develop new courses for institutions of higher learning.

Supporting and Assisting Undergraduate English Language Learners in the Classroom at UC Davis

Pearl Chaozon-Bauer

This project addressed a problem that many undergraduate non-native English speakers face in their classes: how to grasp the difficult material of college-level courses and make the most of their classroom experience.   My project was two-fold: first, I helped graduate student and postdoctoral TAs and instructors become more effective teachers to native- and non-native English speakers in the classroom, and second, I helped empower undergraduate ELLs by giving them information and tools about how to become their own advocate in their classes.  I held two workshops for TAs and instructors which helped them to design course instruction and materials to benefit all their students.  We discussed the different needs of ELLs and how to deliver manageable content that did not diminish academic challenges but instead focused on accessibility.

I am very excited to spread information through varying disciplines and am confident that these workshops have been helpful to undergraduate students in UC Davis humanities and science departments. In designing the workshop tailored to undergraduates, I was able to connect with the Outreach Coordinator at Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS) and discuss how we can build programs to prepare international students and scholars for the U.S. Classroom.  This summer, we are developing multiple workshops, which I will be leading at Orientation and through the Fall quarter, to help students with participation, self-advocacy, use of office hours, and developing a rapport with their American instructors.  I have also been invited as a guest speaker for the Fall 2014 EDU 98 class for international students, which I hope will help make integration into U.S. classrooms more smoothly.  It is exciting to see my PFTF project grow into something truly useful for the students at UC Davis, with an after-life that goes beyond the 2013-2014 program.   

Peer Skill-Share: Developing Organizational Toolkits for Academic Success

Valerie Feldman

Graduate and postdoctoral students enter their programs with varying capacities to manage the administrative demands of academia, including the various roles and tasks we must juggle, and the high volume of information we must manage. Experienced faculty advisors may offer personal advice on these topics, but this advice varies in quantity and quality. However, many of our peers have developed creative ways to deal with these challenges.

To tap into the collective knowledge of the academic community, I facilitated three peer skill-share workshops for graduate students and postdocs seeking to share and expand their organizational skill sets. The first workshop addressed task management, scheduling, and staying motivated to get work done. Participants were asked to reflect individually and in with the larger group on difficulties that they have with these topics in the past; how they overcame them; whether they work best with reward or punishment systems; and how to build accountability structures into their work and personal lives.

The second and third workshops addressed literature and reference management, and qualitative data management. Participants in these workshops were asked to reflect on what sort of data and reference management systems worked or did not work for them and why. They then gathered in small rotating “show-and-tell” groups to trade information and experiences using particular programs and organizational methods, before sharing what they had learned with the larger group.

The goal of these workshops was to develop a diverse collection of tools, techniques, and habits that participants could assess and choose from to determine what works best for them. After each workshop, the resulting “toolkits” were made available for participants and the larger UCD community via the “Academic Peer Skill-Share” SmartSite, which is accessible to anyone in the UCD community. These workshops were well received, with over 40 graduate and postdoctoral students attending from over 15 different disciplines. There was especially high demand for the first and third workshops, so it would be especially useful to continue offering such workshops in the future. 

Demystifying the Academic Poster (or,"How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Format")

Jeremy Foin

The academic or scientific poster is a popular conference presentation format, particularly for those who harbor a dislike for public speaking. However, there tends to be very little in the way of guidance about exactly how one should go about creating an effective poster presentation. Instead, for the most part presenters – be they undergraduates, graduate students, or full-fledged faculty members – are left to figure it out on their own. Unfortunately, because most presenters have little to no familiarity with the basic principles of graphic design, the vast majority of posters fail to accomplish their primary purpose – namely, disseminating findings and results in an attention-grabbing and visually-arresting way. In order to begin the process of ameliorating this widespread shortcoming, I drew on my experience as a former graphic designer to develop a workshop to introduce participants to the fundamental principles of good design, and how a basic working knowledge of these principles can be harnessed to improve the quality and impact of academic poster presentations.

The workshop was designed with two primary goals in mind: first, to acquaint participants with the basic concepts (visual hierarchy, negative/positive space, contrast, repetition, proximity, color, alignment, typography), and second, to provide concrete, real-world examples of how (and how not!) to apply these concepts to the design and creation of academic posters. The workshop was conducted using a standard lecture-style format, with plenty of time left at the conclusion for a question-and-answer session. Interest in the workshop was unexpectedly high, with over 50 people registered in each of the two identical offerings. Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive, and many great suggestions were made as to how future iterations of workshop could be improved. I have already been invited by an attendee to present the workshop at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and I fully intend to incorporate many of these suggestions into the existing framework prior to the next offering.

An Introduction to Data Manipulation, Visualization, and Analysis with R

Patrick Grof-Tisza

For my PFTF project, I designed a two-part professional development workshop series based on former PFTF Anna Steel’s highly successful project, “R for Dummies.” The overarching goal of my workshop series was to reduce the anxiety and frustration associated with learning the object-oriented computer programming language, “R”.

R is quickly becoming one of the most widely used statistical software packages due to its versatility and zero cost. However, the steep learning curve deters many potential users. The primary objective of the first workshop was to provide a gentle introduction to R syntax, basic commands, and how to navigate the help resources. Together, these topics provided the necessary tools for participants to become self-directed learners. The second workshop focused on common functions used for data visualization and analysis.

The workshop series was attended by approximately 50 participants, consisting of faculty, postdocs, Ph.Ds. and staff, representing 16 departments.  The impact of the workshop exceeded the number of active participants, as more than 100 unique individuals accessed workshop material on the project website.  Further, the workshop content will remain as an online resource for the graduate student and broader university community.

I am hugely grateful for the unique opportunity afforded by the PFTF program. Through my project, I developed and taught curriculum as well as assessed student learning and my own teaching. Rarely, do graduate students in the STEM fields have control over content for classes they TA, let alone completely implement backwards design. The skills I have gained in the PFTF program have helped me become a better educator and participant in the academic community.

Native American Studies Cross-Disciplinary Graduate Student Research Journal

Angel Hinzo

UC Davis has the only Native American Studies (NAS) department in the United States with an undergraduate program and a graduate program that offers a Master’s and Doctorate degree. In 2012 two graduate students, Patricia Killelea and Christine Willie, coordinated the first annual Native American Studies Graduate Student Symposium with the support of other graduate students in the Native American Studies department. In 2013, the NAS graduate student symposium branched out to include UC Berkeley. This year’s 2013-2014 symposium, Dreaming to Knowledge: Acorn Eaters in Transnational Waters, was a two day event that included presenters various campuses (UC Davis, UCSD, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Syracuse). Additionally, this year’s symposium was well-attended with over 100 participants from UC Davis alone.

With the support of UC Davis’ Professors for the Future program Angel M. Hinzo and Cutcha Risling Baldy organized the founding of the Native American Studies Graduate Research Journal. This is a cross-disciplinary graduate student peer review research journal designed to extend the academic conversations generated in the Annual Native American Studies Graduate Student Symposium. The goals of this graduate student research journal are to support graduate students working in the fields of Native American Studies by developing vital professional skills regarding the publishing of academic work. Additionally, this research journal will act as a graduate student space for fostering academic dialogue in Native American Studies. The opportunity to be published—or act as a peer reviewer—in the Native American Studies Graduate Research Journal will be extended to all graduate students conducting research related to Native American Studies. The inaugural editorial board of the Native American Studies Graduate Research Journal consists of students from UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The editorial board has designed submission guidelines, policies, and procedures that will enable the publishing of the first issue of the journal through eScholarship in Fall 2014. 

Emerging Leaders in Policy and Public Service

Amandeep Kaur

Emerging Leaders in Policy and Public Service (ELIPPS), a 3-tier workshop series focused towards bringing together graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are passionate about leadership and service, who have interest in public and science policy in government and non-government sectors. 

ELIPPS aimed at:

  • Educating students and postdocs about various opportunities in policy and public service.
  • Giving opportunities to students and postdocs to hear from elected officials and experts in policy making from Office of Congressman John Garamendi, Office of Senator Lois Wolk, City Council and Yolo County Board of Supervisors.
  • Building an ELIPPS community of people who are interested in this cause and
    • Giving them a platform for having discussions on available jobs and internship opportunities
    • Connecting them with faculty and policy experts

The themes of the workshops and speakers were the following:

  • From Graduate School to U.S. Government
    Held on November 7, 2013: Attended by 100 students, staff, administrators and faculty
    Speakers: Congressman John Garamendi, Representative CA-D3, Amber Mace, Director of CCST and Associate Director of UC Davis Policy Institute on Energy, Economy and the Environment and Andrew Kim, District Project Director, Office of Congressman John Garamendi
  • Crossing the Causeway: Science Policy in State Capitol
    Held on January 15, 2014: Attended by 60 students
    Speakers: Ashley Conrad-Saydah, Deputy Secretary for Climate Policy and Catharine Moore, Consultant in California Natural Resources and Water Committee
  • Translating Research into Policy
    Held on February 27, 2014: Attended by 40 students
    Speakers: Dan Wolk, Mayor Pro-Tem, City of Davis and Petrea Marchand, Founder and Consultant, ConseroSolutions

​​Preparing Future Faculty in Curriculum Development

Tasha Peart

Designing curricula is one of the main responsibilities of faculty, however, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars receive inadequate training in this area. Faculty will be increasingly challenged to integrate changes in learning platforms that includes distance education. This challenge will require future faculty to not only be knowledgeable about developing curricula, but also to be aware of the planning and preparation that must go into the design of distance learning courses. As future faculty, it is important to have an understanding of the curriculum development process, for both traditional classroom-based and distance learning courses. In order to facilitate these future educational expectations, workshops were conducted that discussed the concepts and process of curriculum design, emerging topics in the field, and the role of technology in curriculum development. 

The first workshop provided information on how to design, implement, and evaluate curricula. The workshop was applicable to developing a course, a series of courses, or how it applies to the larger role of developing an academic department within a university. The second workshop focused on integrating technology in curriculum development, including tools and strategies used in technology-enhanced courses. The curriculum development workshops were led by faculty from the University of California, Davis and were attended by faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students. 

Alternative Careers in the Sciences: Improving Graduate Education to Support Diverse Pathways

Jose Pietri

In today's workforce, obtaining an advanced degree in the sciences opens doors to many diverse careers. However, despite the wide variety of career opportunities available to Ph.D.s in the sciences, many graduate programs, particularly those at large research institutions, continue to tailor education towards academic research positions. This trend has contributed to the overproduction of qualified Ph.D. graduates who are unable to compete for appropriate-level jobs. Year after year, the number of academic research positions in the United States remains fairly steady while universities produce more and more graduates whose education and graduate experience is geared towards these few available positions.

As a result, the job market for academic positions has become intensely competitive and those individuals who are not able to land one of these rate positions lack the skills or knowledge necessary to succeed in other environments. In order to alleviate this problem, graduate programs must provide students and post-doctoral scholars with more exposure to alternative positions available in teaching, government and industry, as well better guidance on the skills and connections necessary to successfully compete for them.

My PFTF-project focused on addressing these issues by increasing student exposure to careers outside of academia through a two-part workshop series. Part one of the series, entitled "Careers Outside of Academia in the Sciences: Perspectives on Teaching at a Community College" featured a panel of two professors who gave presentations regarding their career paths and held a Q and A section with the attending students. The workshop attracted over 30 individuals and received largely positive reviews. The second part of the series entitled "Careers Outside of Academia in the Sciences: Perspectives on Industry and Government Research" also attracted over 30 students and featured speakers from Genentech and the USDA. Overall, the workshop series was well received and sparked a large amount of interest from students. Further, an incoming 2014-2015 PFTF fellow has expressed interest in continuing a similar project, indicating the potential for the workshop series to become a long-term fixture on campus.

“How I Would Teach It” Graduate Students Teaching Texts/ Native American Studies Graduate Research Journal Co-Editor

Cutcha Risling Baldy

“How I Would Teach It” evolved from a series of workshops to a series of podcasts hosted on my personal website to discuss how graduate student instructors and professors approach teaching texts in their classroom. The project was designed to be a resource for Graduate Student instructors interested in teaching texts from an interdisciplinary perspective.

This year the project focused on Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah Miranda. Bad Indians is the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award, Gold Medal for Autobiography/ Memoir winner. This text was chosen because it provides multiple formats for instruction (poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, photographs, drawings) and because it is an interdisciplinary approach to literature, history and memoir.

The first podcast featured Graduate Student instructors who have used the text in their intro courses for undergraduate students. The instructors discussed how they approached the text, what assignments they used and what themes they discussed in their teaching. In addition, these instructors provided their assignments for review on the website. These assignments and this podcast will be available for download. The second podcast featured an interview with the author, Deborah Miranda. Miranda discussed how she gathered the materials and put the text together. She also read through and provided insight into the poetry in the book. Finally, she provided answers to questions that were submitted by undergraduate students. The third podcast featured two short lessons for use in the classroom. These lessons included (1) teaching about mission history in California and Bad Indians and (2) analyzing two poems from Bad Indians.

All podcasts, classroom materials and assignments will be available on the website in June 2014. “How I Would Teach It” plans to feature a new text in 2015. 

In addition to this project I served as a Co-Editor for the Native American Studies Graduate Research Journal. 

A University – Wide Workshop for Qualifying Exam Preparation

Mallorie Taylor Teeples

Studying for the qualifying examination is one of the most stressful periods of graduate school. Many graduate groups do not offer formal instruction on how to prepare, and students are often confused and anxious about the best way to study and ready themselves for this important rite of passage. Using information compiled by Dr. Peggy Hauselt (PFTF, 2006) and Dr. Louis Grivetti from the UCD Department of Nutrition, I developed a qualifying exam workshop to aid other students through this important yet stressful segment of their graduate career.

This workshop centered on a power-point presentation outlining the five “golden rules’ of QE preparation developed by Dr. Grivetti: understand the qualifying exam, know your examiners, prepare early, reduce your stress, and have an exam day plan.  In conjunction with the presentation, a panel of graduate students and professors from a variety of disciplines was present to answer questions and offer recommendations. This panel featured Nicholas Aguirre (Neurobiology), Wendy Brown (Biomedical Engineering), Jeremy Foin (Anthropology), Dr. Judy Jernstedt (Plant Science), Elisabeth Lore (Comparative Literature), and Dr. Sarah Perrault (Creative Writing).

Overall the workshop was very successful, with approximately 90 students in attendance. In order to assess the workshop and help it better meet the needs of students, participants were asked to fill out an evaluation. Although only 37 participants filled out evaluations, their responses were overwhelmingly positive, with 93% of saying they would recommend the workshop to a friend. Most participants mentioned that they appreciated the open format of the workshop, as it allowed professors and senior graduate students to share their experiences in a very candid, personal, and informative way. The high level of attendance speaks to the need for this workshop to continue as a regular service for graduate students. The greatest challenge will be to recruit professors and senior graduate students from different departments who are willing to participate as part of the panel.

Finding Our Voices: Helping ITAs and Students Overcome the Communication Gap

Daniel Villarreal

For over 30 years, students at American universities have complained of difficulties in understanding their international teaching assistants (ITAs). Universities have responded to the communication gap between students and ITAs in ways that put the entire burden of the communication gap on ITAs’ shoulders. While all TAs, both international and domestic, should strive to improve their classroom communication skills, there is ample evidence that the communication gap extends beyond ITAs’ communication skills. In particular, students “hallucinate” a foreign accent when there is none (and comprehend lectures worse) simply by seeing an Asian face (Rubin, 1992). In this light, it is not surprising that 30 years of one-sided efforts have failed to ameliorate the communication gap. While it is true that all TAs, both international and domestic, can improve their classroom communication skills, it is clear that any efforts to mitigate the communication gap must involve both students and instructors.

The goal of my project was to give both ITAs and undergraduates the tools to overcome the communication gap. To meet this goal, I conducted two separate workshops: one for international graduate students and another for undergraduates. In the workshop for international graduate students, I presented linguistic, cultural, and meta-communicative skills based on past research into the communication gap. Three longtime international graduate students, representing a diverse array of geographical, linguistic, and disciplinary backgrounds, also discussed their own experiences meeting and overcoming communicative obstacles in the classroom. In the workshop for undergraduates, I presented strategies for becoming better listeners, which included addressing students’ own preconceptions about their instructors’ intelligibility. The undergraduates then put their listening strategies into practice with a short lesson from an international TA.

While these efforts were successful, the challenge lies in reaching scores of new ITAs and thousands of new undergraduates every year. Looking to the future, I will be using the materials and methods developed in this project to inform similar workshops, possibly at new student orientation sessions.

Rubin, D. L. (1992). Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates' judgments of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. Research in Higher Education, 33(4), 511–531. doi:10.1007/bf00973770

Contact Us

  • Office Phone: 530-754-1457
  • Email: