Successful UTPA New Faculty Support Program to resume February 2008
Posted: 12/11/2007
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The first semester of a New Faculty Support Program initiated fall 2007 at The University of Texas-Pan American has drawn high praise from faculty newcomers and their mentors as they enter the second semester of the program which begins in February 2008.

Designed to help the 70 full-time, tenure and tenure-track faculty new to UTPA this 2007-2008 academic year adjust smoothly to their new academic and community environments, the program has been met with overwhelmingly positive response and feedback according to Dr. Ala Qubbaj, provost fellow, who directs the program.

"The new faculty indicated that the program was very beneficial in that it jumpstarted their fall semester and made them feel informed, cared for and reassured," said Qubbaj, who compiled mid-program evaluations from participants.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Paul Sale (center) shares lunch and a discussion at the last of the New Faculty Support Program fall semester luncheon sessions with new tenure-track faculty members Maria Elena Reyna, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences in the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, and Dr. Mohammadali Zolfagharian, assistant professor, Department of Management, Marketing and International Business in the College of Business Administration. The spring series of the yearlong program will begin Feb. 9, 2008.
The program, which began with a kick-off reception and orientation Aug. 20-21, consists of a series of luncheon presentations and workshops to provide the new faculty with social, resource and intellectual support to successfully integrate into the University and to achieve their highest potential as a teacher and scholar. One-on-one peer mentoring from experienced faculty in the new faculty member's discipline is also a key element of the program.

The fall semester series included a workshop and luncheon sessions that targeted acclimation to the university campus, system and strategic direction as well as improvement of teaching capacity and classroom success.

The spring component, which begins Feb. 9 with an all-day grant development workshop, will focus on building and improving faculty research capacity. The yearlong program will conclude with a May 2 banquet where certificates of completion will be awarded.

New faculty member Dr. Jennifer Lemanski, an assistant professor who teaches mass communication and advertising courses, said the program has helped her become accustomed to the culture of UTPA, given her ideas for balancing different aspects of her job and familiarized her with the "ins and outs" of her department, the college and the overall university.

Lemanski said her mentor, Dr. Dora Saavedra, associate professor in the College of Arts and Humanities' Department of Communication, has been a helpful colleague.

"She (Saavedra) has been a source for advice on a variety of issues - from writing syllabi to settling in the Valley," she said.

Saavedra feels the program is a great investment in the University's new faculty.

"Although there has been much informal mentoring going on for years, I believe that this program underscores the University's commitment to helping faculty make the transition to UTPA as smooth as possible," she said.

Dr. Aziza Zemrani, a new assistant professor in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Public Administration Program, has been impressed with the topic content of several of the sessions and said she particularly enjoyed the program's workshop on teaching effectiveness.

"This program encourages faculty to incorporate effective teaching strategies, to improve communication and interdisciplinary learning, and to engage, in a regular and systematic way, in dialogue that promotes collegiality," she said, adding that she hoped for a follow up program next year to provide continued help for faculty, especially in the areas of research and service.

As a result of the new program's success, the Division of Academic Affairs is in the process of initiating a parallel but separate program for second through sixth year tenure track faculty.

"To the credit of Dr. Qubbaj and others who helped construct and implement this successful program, I had numerous requests to institute a similar series for tenure track faculty in their second through sixth year," said Dr. Paul Sale, provost and vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs. "Dr. Qubbaj has again stepped up to the plate and will be coordinating that five-program series to begin in the spring 2008 semester."

Sale said he was also exploring the possibility of creating a similar program for tenured faculty members and has asked Dr. John Sargent, faculty senate chair, to work with the senate to identify professional development topics of interest to tenured faculty.

Encouraged by its success so far, Sale reiterated the program's role as an important component of the University's strategic direction.

"This program and the similar ones we plan for additional faculty members supports an environment at our University where faculty are able to thrive and innovate in teaching and research," he said.

For more information, contact Qubbaj at 956/381-2111 or via e-mail