[FUN_Mail] FW: FW: FUN Newsletter - President's Message and Conversation

Calin-Jageman, Robert rcalinjageman at dom.edu
Mon Jun 30 09:29:19 EDT 2014

From: Fox, Cecilia [mailto:foxc at moravian.edu]
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2014 3:45
To: Hildebrand, John G - (jhildebr)
Cc: FUN_Mail at lists.funfaculty.org
Subject: Re: [FUN_Mail] FW: FUN Newsletter - President's Message and Conversation

Many thanks to all of you for this interesting series of comments.  As neuroscience professors at liberal arts institutions, we have the opportunity to cross many disciplines when teaching concepts related to the brain and behavior.   In fact, I encourage my majors to not only study neuroscience, but to double major or minor in another area of interest.  Of course, some like to stay within their comfort zone of the sciences (Chemistry or Physics) but recently, a larger number of students are also taking clusters of courses in photography, ethics, music, business and so on, since they want to have a breadth of experiences that may serve them well in their future career path.

In advising these students, many have aspirations of attending medical or graduate school.  As we all know, some will succeed and some will not.  As their academic advisor, I have always viewed my role as one that encourages these aspirations but provides realistic advice.  I ensure every major has a "plan B" should their first choice not be realized upon graduation from college.   It has been essential to work with our Career Center to help identify particular marketable skill sets in our students.  As was mentioned earlier, the development of critical and creative thinking skills are important for the future success of our majors.  In fact, as technology advances, we may actually be training our students for careers that do not even exist right now!

We need to be proactive and develop skill sets in our students that will serve them well beyond areas in scientific disciplines (communication, computer science, business, social justice, etc).   Some of my majors who have gone on to pursue graduate degrees are engaged in professions ranging from lobbyists to researchers to art directors.   In my view, the "tenured track PhD professor" may easily be considered the "alternative" career rather than the norm.

But, if we are to continue training future neuroscientists, it is also our responsibility to serve as advocates for our cause.  We need to contact our local political representatives to express the importance of educating this next generation of physicians, scientists and educators.  As an organization, we need to ensure that funding for NSF and NIH remains strong rather than dwindles....as has been the case in recent years.  We can engage our local SfN chapters in this effort to provide a consistent and cohesive message.  As someone who serves on the SfN Governance and Public Affairs committee, I have seen the value of this work first hand.  The key is to not only share our voices, but those of our undergraduates.  When organized, they can provide the heart and soul of this message as it relates to the future of our country's well being and prosperity.

Kind regards,
Cecilia Fox

Cecilia M. Fox, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Director of the Neuroscience Program
President of the Lehigh Valley Society for Neuroscience Chapter
Moravian College
1200 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018
cfox at moravian.edu<mailto:cfox at moravian.edu>

On Sat, Jun 28, 2014 at 5:13 PM, Hildebrand, John G - (jhildebr) <jhildebr at email.arizona.edu<mailto:jhildebr at email.arizona.edu>> wrote:

I heartily endorse the message (below) from Bob Rosenberg. It's right on target in every respect! Thanks for posting it, Bob!

John G. Hildebrand, Ph.D.
Regents Professor and Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences
Department of Neuroscience
University of Arizona PO Box 210077
1040 East 4th St.
Tucson  AZ  85721-0077
tel: 520-621-6626<tel:520-621-6626>
fax: 520-621-8282<tel:520-621-8282>
email: <jhildebr at email.arizona.edu<mailto:jhildebr at email.arizona.edu>>
Website: http://neurosci.arizona.edu/

-----Original Message-----
From: FUN_Mail [mailto:fun_mail-bounces at lists.funfaculty.org<mailto:fun_mail-bounces at lists.funfaculty.org>] On Behalf Of Bob Rosenberg
Sent: Saturday, June 28, 2014 9:38 AM
To: FUN Mail
Subject: Re: [FUN_Mail] FUN Newsletter - President's Message and Conversation

From my perspective, having been a professor at a research-intensive medical/graduate school (UNC-Chapel Hill) and now a professor at a liberal arts college (Earlham College), I have some disagreements with Jeff.

1. There are no "alternative" career paths anymore. Graduate students understand from very early on, i.e in their first year, that their career path is unlikely to lead to a tenure-track position. All career options (e.g. research positions in academia or industry, R&D in any commercial setting, grants management, clinical research management, science writing and editing, working for professional organizations) are considered as options from early on in grad school. All of them are considered legitimate by most students and their professors. Many professors still hope their students will become their clones, but most are realistic that that's unlikely. Maybe students at Stanford and Harvard are deluded into thinking they can be a tenured professor if they want, but at the grad programs I was affiliated with in Chapel Hill, students knew the score. Most of them are using their PhD very productively even if a small percentage are tenure-track professors.

2. Undergraduate education is not vocational education, it's life-enriching education. We can hope that neuroscience students will pursue neuroscience after they graduate, but we mustn't be disappointed if they follow other paths that aren't in science at all, and we mustn't think of those paths as failures. Students become neuroscience majors because at this point in their lives they're passionate about learning about the brain and behavior, and that should be reason enough. Their lives will be better for following that passion even if they don't pursue it past the BA or BS. If they use the skills that they learn as neuroscience majors -- thinking critically, being able to communicate their thoughts, understanding complex ideas and data -- in any career, their education was worth the effort. Even if they become real estate agents, bartenders, or stay-home parents, their college education enriches their lives.

3. We must be honest with students who express an interest in graduate school about the possible career paths, and we can't be too sanguine about their chances getting onto and then surviving the tenure track, but I think it would be a mistake to discourage students from following their passion for further education. Unless we actively delude students into thinking that the tenure track is a likely outcome, we are not part of the problem. The problem is when students, both graduate and undergraduate, are deluded into having unrealistic goals about academic career paths. As long as we don't do that, there is no major problem.

Bob Rosenberg
Professor of Biology
Earlham College
801 National Road West, Drawer 142
Richmond, IN 47374

office: (765) 983-1464
fax: (765) 983-1497
email: rosenbo at earlham.edu<mailto:rosenbo at earlham.edu>

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