The tagline for NextProf Science is "Diversifying Academia", and that pretty much says it all. It is a workshop for young scientists with a demonstrated commitment to diversity aimed at helping them envision themselves not just as researchers, but as leaders in academia. "It's a great thing that, here at UM, we were among the first to recognize the need to diversify our faculty body, and act to make it possible for a pool of scientists with a demonstrated commitment to diversity to be tomorrow's leaders” said Dr. Elena Gallo, one of the presenters from Michigan Astronomy.
According to the website, “[t]he program seeks applicants with the potential to bring to their academic and research careers the perspective that comes from their non-traditional educational background or understanding of the experiences of members of groups historically under-represented in higher education.”
Many people in under-represented groups report feeling like they don’t belong, because other people just seem to know how things work. Whether it’s applying for a research grant, teaching your first class, or attaining tenure, there are things you need to know that are not part of a normal undergraduate or grad school curriculum. First generation scientists often lag behind their peers not because of a lack of talent, but because they don’t know about opportunities or common practices. In her blog after the workshop, Blair R. Costelloe wrote that it was “[a]ll the information I felt that I was somehow expected to know but was never told, all the answers to the questions I never even knew to ask.”
Four invited speakers from other universities and 34 presenters from the University of Michigan gave presentations and workshops on everything from how the tenure process work to how to find (and become) a good mentor. From the Department of Astronomy, Dr. Ted Bergin participated on a panel about the faculty search process, and how to present yourself as a great candidate. Part of being a professor is teaching, and Dr. Tim McKay hosted workshops on developing your teaching philosophy.
Dr Gallo participated in one of the sessions devoted to networking and relationship building, which is one of the most important starting points for any career. Attendees come from many different areas of science, so networking also builds interdisciplinary connections. Those following along on social media could see how successful these sessions were, as participants posted pictures of mastodon skeletons, or  excited tweets about venomous cone snails, even if they weren’t paleontologists or biologists. If you’d like to see more of the social media posts, Dr. Jedidah Isler has a great Storify, full of resources and comments from the workshop.
NextProf Science was sponsored by the science departments in LSA. If you wold like more information, visit the NextProf Science website.  It is modeled after the highly successful NextProf Engineering program, run by the College of Engineering. Applications for their fall session are boing accepted though June 9, so if you’re an engineer, visit their site soon!
In the words of Dr. Gallo, "For me, the best thing about NextProf is that we did something useful with no immediate return in sight…[W]e brought in these amazingly talented people from different backgrounds, gave them info about the hiring process and how to best position themselves to make a difference in the job market. We empowered them. Whether UM will benefit of this directly in the near future, or not, is an open question. What there’s no question about is that Academia at large will benefit from this, hugely."