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:: By Josh Schonwald

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Chicago Journal ::

Alumni aid future academics

This past fall graduate students preparing to go on the academic market got a new resource: alumni professors standing by to counsel them on the nuts and bolts of acquiring a faculty appointment. The program Professors on Call taps into Chicago’s vast network of alumni who work in academia. These volunteers assist students with crafting cover letters, curricula vitae, syllabi, and portfolios. The organizers don’t know of another program like it.

The University, long regarded as a teacher of teachers, has thousands of alumni in academe, says Shoshannah Cohen, AM’91, PhD’98, assistant director of graduate services for the Humanities Division, the Divinity School, and Career Advising and Planning Services. Cohen, together with Center for Teaching and Learning director Elizabeth Chandler, AM’72, and Alumni Association associate director Penelope Petropoul, AB’96, created Professors on Call to take advantage of the Alumni Careers Network *NOTE URL (*, a database that generates, among other lists, alumni who’ve offered their professorial expertise.

Going “on the market” for the first time can be daunting, Chandler says. “Getting a chance to have a test run”—a mock interview, for example—“and to get concrete feedback on their applications from, in some cases, people within these institutions or similar institutional types will give [students] a great sense of confidence.” Moreover, she says, because they “understand the educational experience of our graduate students, our alumni can coach them on how to frame those experiences in such a way as to speak to the interests of faculty and students in other colleges and universities.”

With Professors on Call, students interested in teaching at a variety of schools can contact faculty at similar institutions. Course load, mentoring responsibilities, the college’s culture, emphasis on research—each institution, Cohen says, has a different set of needs.

At its October launch the program had 61 alumni volunteers. The Alumni Association plans to promote it beyond the pilot group to the Human Rights Program, the Graduate School of Business, and the Department of Physical Education & Athletics.