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New Faculty Orientation Program

The orientation program for new Arts & Sciences faculty integrates activities throughout the first year. The program provides:

  1. In-depth information about campus resources to support teaching and research
  2. Opportunities for new faculty to meet in a relaxed, collegial environment outside of their home departments
  3. Access to an experienced faculty mentor

Above all, the program seeks to introduce our new colleagues to the strong culture of teaching, scholarship, and institutional involvement that distinguishes faculty life at William and Mary. Thanks to the enthusiasm of new faculty and strong encouragement from the dean, there has been 100 percent participation from new faculty since the program began in 1998.

Orientation begins with a one-day retreat held about a week before Fall classes begin. Considerable emphasis is placed on introductions and social interaction. The Dean of Students provides information on the Study Skills office, disability issues, the Counseling Center, and other Student Affairs resources. Detailed information is circulated about the resources of the College's Grant's Office, the Writing Resources Center, and the Charles Center. In the final sessions, participants divide into three smaller groups (the humanities, social sciences, and sciences) and spend some time together with their mentors. The day concludes with an informal dinner for mentors, the new faculty, and their families and partners.

The small groups then meet about three times each semester. Along with their social interaction, groups focus on issues of specific interest to new faculty. For example, they all discuss grading issues, including College and departmental norms, strategies for setting student expectations, writing tests that generate appropriate variance, arguments for and against "curving," and so on. They all also discuss different ways to get student course evaluation feedback, including midterm evaluations; look closely at strategies for managing faculty time and striking a balance between the demands of teaching, research, and institutional involvement; and discuss ways to integrate students into faculty research projects.

Participants also attend several of the workshops on teaching themes organized by the University Teaching Project. In the past this has included a workshop on using technology in the classroom and a workshop on integrating different kinds of writing assignments into courses. Participants are also invited to attended informal lunch sessions on such topics as admissions, financial aid, and the College's Honors Code.

Additional Focus on Undergraduate Research

Research (defined broadly) is a core theme of the undergraduate curriculum at William and Mary. We emphasize active learning, independent and small group inquiry, and original research at all levels of the student's undergraduate experience.

Because many new faculty come from large institutions where it is Ph.D. students, not undergraduates, who have the opportunity to work closely with faculty on research projects, we have created several workshops designed to introduce new faculty to our undergraduate research program and to explain how undergraduates can collaborate with faculty on research projects.

In addition, the Charles Center has provided funding for new faculty to work with undergraduate research students in the summer after their first year of teaching.

Evaluation

All participants, new faculty and mentors, are asked to evaluate the program at year's end. These evaluations suggest that new faculty have many things in common, that they appreciate and profit from having a structured opportunity to meet with each other, and that the program is not perceived as overly time-consuming.

In addition, it's clear that new colleagues accrue more benefit from the year-long approach than they would from a standalone one- or two-day orientation. One of the new faculty summarized her orientation experience as follows:

I want to communicate to you that the teaching workshops and new faculty orientation program have been immensely helpful to me. As a new teacher and new faculty member, my first year has been fraught with new challenges. This program really helped me make it through this difficult time. Barbara [King, her mentor] has been a wonderful role model for me. She is always willing to help and support me. Thank you so much for assigning her as my faculty mentor. As a Physical Anthropologist, I would not have thought that she'd be my first choice. As it turns out, I have learned a tremendous amount from her despite our disciplinary differences. In addition, she is a terrific person, so it's been great to get to know her as a colleague. I hope that this program continues and even expands. It represents an extremely valuable experience for new faculty.