Berkeley Engineering Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu talks with NextProf Nexus participants

Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu talks with NextProf Nexus participants at the Berkeley conference. (Photo by Adam Lau / Berkeley Engineering)

NextProf career workshop provides pipeline for diverse faculty

To help strengthen the next generation of engineering leaders, Berkeley Engineering and Michigan Engineering are hosting a three-day workshop designed to prepare diverse graduate students and recent doctoral graduates for a career in higher education.

Starting today, nearly 70 Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers from 30 institutions across the country will convene at UC Berkeley for NextProf Nexus, a workshop focused on encouraging more women and traditionally underrepresented groups to apply for engineering and science faculty positions.

“Diversity and excellence go hand in hand, and our goal is to inspire and prepare a diverse pool of engineers and researchers to seek out careers in academia,” said Kara Nelson, NextProf Nexus co-chair, associate dean of equity and inclusion at Berkeley Engineering, and a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “A growing body of research shows that the best solutions come from diverse teams. As engineers, we’re called upon to solve some of the most important challenges society faces. To develop the most creative and successful solutions, we need all the talent at the table. Right now, we’re missing some of that talent.”

NextProf began at the University of Michigan, which has hosted the annual workshop for the past five years. This year’s NextProf Nexus program represents a new partnership between the engineering schools at UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan. The goal is to expand the reach and impact of the workshop by alternating the location between the two universities.

Panelists and featured speakers at the workshop include distinguished faculty, administrators and NextProf alumni from across the country. The workshop’s first day starts off with a panel of engineering deans that include Tsu-Jae King Liu of UC Berkeley and Alec Gallimore of the University of Michigan. They will be joined by their fellow deans, Emily Allen of California State University, Los Angeles; Theresa Maldonado of the University of Texas at El Paso; and Greg Washington of UC Irvine.

Michael Brown, provost and executive vice president of the University of California, will talk about diversity in the UC system in his keynote presentation Friday morning.

A significant part of the workshop will focus on preparing for interviews, a potentially intimidating process but one in which Nelson says applicants must absolutely shine to secure a faculty offer.  Participants will also learn about building a research program, securing grants and developing a teaching philosophy.  

“There are senior Ph.D. students and postdocs who may be discouraged from applying for faculty positions because they don’t see themselves represented,” said NextProf co-organizer Meltem Erol, director of graduate outreach at Berkeley Engineering. “We know that having a more diverse faculty will help us attract more diverse students, as we ultimately aim to have a faculty and student body that reflects society at large.”

Attendees come from all fields of specialization in engineering.  They were chosen from among a competitive pool of applicants, who must describe their own commitment to advancing diversity as part of the application process.

“NextProf Nexus enables accomplished faculty to share their experiences with a talented group of aspiring faculty, who are essential to the future of engineering.” said Nelson. “Our participants are passionate about scholarship, advancing knowledge, education and improving society, and we want to help them fulfill their dreams.”

Topics: Berkeley Engineering in the News, Education & outreach, Events, Students