How To Get A Teaching at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution

Recently, I was hired as a tenure track faculty member in the biology department of an undergraduate institution. Previously, while seeking a site for the second year of a Pew Teacher-Scholar Postdoctoral Fellowship, I had the rare opportunity to visit and interview at eight colleges in the Midwest. Since I was not being considered for a tenure track position at the time, I was able to get a feel for the interview process without all the pressures of a real job interview. This experience gave me a feel for the interview process and insights into the special qualities sought by undergraduate institutions. To share what I learned during my time on these campuses, I published an article in the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Newsletter (1). There have been several publications written for candidates interviewing at research institutions (2, 3, 4), but none for prospective faculty members at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs). Unfortunately, most PhD candidates and postdocs are chastised for any interest they have in teaching (sometimes referred to as the “T-word”) and we get little support from research mentors for our career choice. There has been increasing awareness however, that not everyone who gets a PhD wants to establish a research lab at a university. In an attempt to assist those seeking “alternative” careers, I have expanded my original CUR Newsletter article to give some suggestions that may be helpful for those wishing to get a job at a PUI.

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