Developing Diverse Leaders


Workshop prepares next generation of faculty in chemistry, engineering and more

When LaShanda Korley was six years old, she stood at a blackboard, handed out papers, and gave her student — her grandmother — tests. She even logged the grades in a gradebook.  “I’ve always known that I wanted to teach,” Korley recently told a roomful of the next generation of science and engineering professors. The Distinguished Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering with a joint appointment in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Delaware, Korley credits several mentors for helping her get to where she is today — a professor and director of a five-year, $5.5 million NSF-funded project to explore bio-inspired materials and systems, such as nanocomposites inspired by spider silk and soft robotics inspired by the way worms wriggle.  Now Korley is paying it forward as co-director of a workshop that grooms diverse leaders, including individuals from underrepresented groups, for futures as university faculty members.

At the 2018 Future Faculty Workshop, held at UD from July 18 to 20, faculty members from 17 universities mentored senior graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from across the country who plan to pursue careers as independent academic researchers in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, and polymer science with a focus on soft materials and biomaterials. Through panels and breakout sessions, mentors offered advice on networking, preparing application materials for faculty positions, interviewing and negotiating, writing grants, maintaining work-life balance, and more. New this year was a spotlight on promoting student wellness and inclusivity led by the Center for Counseling and Student Development.

“I believe that this workshop is so successful because the mentors, both those who are well-established and those who are just getting started, are very transparent,” said Korley. “When you’re a student, you’re not privy to all the many dimensions of what the role of a faculty member is. The transparency of this workshop is vital to its success and allows people to not only be aware of the successes of people they look up to in the field, but also their challenges.”

The 2018 Future Faculty Workshop was co-directed by Thomas H. Epps, III, the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with a joint appointment in materials science and engineering at UD.

“The Future Faculty Workshop provides information and intellectual content to reduce the knowledge gap and improve confidence in the journey toward professorship,” said Epps. “Additionally, the Future Faculty Workshop promotes the formation of sustainable networks by pairing small and diverse groups of students/postdocs with active and engaged research mentors to develop career-long relationships. In total, this workshop is vital toward increasing the proportion of underrepresented groups in the science and engineering academic realm, which can positively impact overall diversity in the future science and engineering workforce.”

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CWRU faculty organize national workshop to demystify the

path toward a career in academia


Five years ago, Emily Pentzer was an aspiring faculty member trying to navigate the path toward a career in academia. To help make more sense of the process, she attended a Future Faculty Workshop for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars hoping to have a career as a faculty member.

“In academia sometimes faculty want to put on the air that they are unshakable and have no fears,” said Pentzer, now an assistant professor of chemistry at Case Western Reserve University. “By participating, it felt like being a faculty member was accessible, and helped turn anxiety into excitement.”

Pentzer will team up with LaShanda Korley, the Climo Associate Professor, and Thomas Epps III, of the University of Delaware, to bring the “Future Faculty Workshop: Grooming Diverse Leaders for the Future” to Case Western Reserve July 30–Aug. 1. Epps is principal investigator on the National Science Foundation grant that provides funding for the workshop. Harvard University, Tosoh Bioscience, Macromolecules/ACS MacroLetters and Polymer Chemistry also will sponsor the event.

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Two-day UD workshop grooms diverse

leaders for the future

Navigating the application process for a faculty position is challenging, and it can be especially intimidating for groups that are currently underrepresented in science and engineering. Yet individuals in these groups — for example, women, minorities, first-generation college students, and persons with disabilities — bring untapped talent and a broadened perspective to academic institutions.

A two-day workshop, “Future Faculty Workshop: Grooming Diverse Leaders for the Future,” held at the University of Delaware in August was aimed at smoothing the path for senior graduate students and postdoctoral fellows aspiring to become independent academic researchers. Organized by Thomas H. Epps, III, who also served as a mentor, the program focused on soft materials — that is, polymers and plastics — and biomaterials.

“We kept the subject area really focused so that participants could practice delivering technical research presentations in an environment similar to what they would encounter during an actual interview process, with mentors providing realistic and technical feedback,” says Epps, who is the Thomas and Kipp Gutshall Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD, with a joint appointment in materials science and engineering.

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