Congratulations on your appointment as Assistant Professor in the School of Arts and Sciences.  At this early stage in your career as a teacher and scholar, I encourage you to take advantage of the School’s "First Two Years" program, which is designed to help you maximize your potential and scholarly growth.  This cohort-based group mentoring program is an insider’s guide to being a faculty member.  “The First Two Years” will help you connect with the community of scholars outside your disciplines and departments, learn "the lay of the land" from experienced faculty members, and develop strategies for successful teaching, research, tenure preparation, and working with colleagues. 

I encourage you to join and become an active participant in this dynamic community of scholars.

With warm wishes for a rewarding year,

Steven J. Fluharty

Dean and Thomas S. Gates, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience

About the Program

The First Two Years is a group mentoring program designed to assist junior faculty in the process of getting settled in the School of Arts and Sciences and the University.  Developed in 2018 by former Diversity Search Advisors (DSAs) Annette Lareau, Greg Guild, and Kathy Peiss, the program is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office.  

Research suggests that not everyone picks up equally on implicit cultural cues and the “rules of the game” in institutions.  Yet, these implicit expectations can matter in building a career.  This program is intended to help new faculty get oriented to Penn, have a cohort experience where they get to know other junior faculty, and get a good start.  Our goal is to provide an “insider’s guide” to being a faculty member.

Participants will:

  • Get to know a cohort of other new faculty at the beginning of their careers.
  • Develop strategies for successful teaching, research, tenure preparation, working with colleagues, and much more.  
  • Learn "the lay of the land" from experienced faculty members.

Junior standing faculty in their first or second year are eligible for this yearlong lunch workshop series.  The program meets  on the second Friday of the month (except in January and March, which meets on the third Friday of the month to accommodate the fall, winter and spring breaks) between 12 noon and 1:30 p.m.

Curriculum topics vary slightly from year to year.  Each session is led by experienced faculty members representing the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. The schedule for academic year 2023-24 is as follows:

September 8, 2023--Getting Acquainted; Program Goals for the Year (location: College Hall 205)

Over lunch you will get to know other new junior faculty members in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS.) Be prepared to share a bit about your background, your area of expertise and the nature of your research. What courses will you teach? We will reflect on choosing a career in academia and being a leader in a university setting, and outline program goals for the yea.

October 13, 2023--Joining the Penn Community: Settling into Your Department, SAS and Penn (location: College Hall 209)

Academic institutions can have unique cultures and logics. Sometimes, these things are so taken for granted that even senior faculty find themselves learning additional “rules of the game.” This session will build on the SAS new faculty orientation and offer many small but crucial pieces of information. Topics include the structural organization of departments and SAS and how to find your way in faculty meetings, colloquia, and other faculty events.

November 10, 2023--Tips on Time Management in Your New Role (location: College Hall 209)

One of the pleasures of holding an academic position is that it comes with a diversity of roles and responsibilities. A variety of responsibilities can also mean competing demands for our time. How should we set priorities?  How should we juggle requests from students versus other goals related to research and writing? This session will offer concrete advice for time management and provide a set of principles to guide decision making.

December 8, 2023--Receiving Mentorship in the Context of Your Discipline (location: College Hall 209)

Junior faculty receive mentoring in various formats and settings, from casual hallway discussions to meetings with an assigned mentoring committee. Mentoring can range from such subjects as putting a course together to deciding whether to accept a publishing or speaking invitation. This session will discuss the importance of identifying one or more helpful mentors and assist you in developing strategies to get the most out of mentoring relationships.

January 19, 2024--A Whole Person: Being a Professor with Competing Obligations (location: College Hall 209)

Although research, teaching, and service are integral parts of an academic career, they are not the only things professors do. Spending time with family and taking adequate time for social activities are also important. Faculty members might face added obligations as they help their partners get settled in a new location, raise young children, or attend to parents’ needs. Join us for an informal conversation about finding a successful balance between an academic career and other important life components.

February 9, 2024--Learning to Teach and Make the Most of Teaching Evaluations (location: College Hall 209)

For new assistant professors, teaching can come with unexpected challenges as well as rewards. The many new tasks include figuring out how much coursework to assign, managing teaching assistants, preparing lecture series, assigning grades, and sometimes responding to disgruntled students. New faculty can find course evaluations hard to interpret or perhaps disappointing in their content. This session will discuss the rewards of teaching and provide valuable tips for how to manage teaching efficiently and how to identify useful comments within students’ teaching evaluations.

March 15, 2024--Now You are the Mentor: Developing Your Leadership Skills (location: College Hall 209)

Regardless of whether you are running a lab, overseeing teaching assistants, or simply advising students, you are now a leader in the workplace. In this session, experienced faculty will advise on best practices in your role as manager and mentor, regardless of discipline.  How should we set and manage expectations?  How should we measure and reward progress?  When should we refer our mentees for additional help or oversight?

April 12, 2024--Promotion is Part of the Process: Third-Year Reviews and Tenure Reviews (location: College Hall 209)

Academic institutions, and even schools within Penn, may vary in the promotion review process. The purpose of this session is to explain how things work at Penn in the School of Arts and Sciences. What do Chairs, Deans, and the Personnel Committee look for in an outstanding file? Who is on the SAS Personnel Committee? How does it work? What is the timeline? We will hear from experienced members of the SAS Personnel Committee. You will learn about the kinds of letters department chairs would like to be able to write for promotion files and gain deeper insight into building a successful career at Penn.


May 10, 2024--Best Practices for Seeking Extramural Funding (location: College Hall 209)

Sources of extramural funding, the purpose of the funding, and the timeline for writing proposals differ among disciplines. Yet, there are some universal best practices for identifying a good match for funding and communicating the importance of one’s research. Many funding opportunities require writing a proposal that targets a broad audience. Experienced faculty, representing different disciplines, will offer their insight on the basics for funding success.


In addition, all junior faculty are invited to a writing retreat:

SAS-GSE Writing Retreat: Dates TBD; usually held over five days in early June  

9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, lunch is served

Organizers: Ayako Kano, East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Jennifer Moore, GSE

Since 2012, a writing retreat has happened which has invited SAS and GSE faculty to spend one week writing together in a room on campus. Faculty commit to only work on their writing during that time. A professional editor, provided by GSE, is onsite during the week to discuss writing projects with faculty. The lunch provides a chance for faculty to meet other faculty in SAS and GSE to build valuable connections. There are four or five follow-up mini writing retreats during the academic year. All faculty are invited.



Meeting time and location:

The program meets over a complimentary lunch in College Hall, Room 209 (except Sept. 8th, which will meet in College Hall 205), on the second Friday of the month (except in January and March, which meets on the third Friday of the month to accommodate the winter and spring breaks) between 12 noon and 1:30 p.m

Time commitment:

Participants must commit to attending at least seven of the nine workshops in the series. 

Program Dates


September 8, 2023
October 13, 2023
November 10, 2023
December 8, 2023
January 19, 2024
February 9, 2024
March 15, 2024
April 12, 2024
May 10, 2024




The First Two Years is an interdisciplinary program open to all junior standing faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences who are in their first or second year.  It is distinct from the group mentoring programs offered by the Provost: the Penn Faculty Pathways Program, serving junior faculty in the natural sciences; and Net-Humanities, serving junior faculty in the humanities.  For those interested in both programs, it is recommended that you enroll in the The First Two Years program first, as its content is geared toward newer (first and second year) junior faculty, while the Provost's programs are geared toward those at a slightly more advanced stage in their careers (second or third year). 

How to Apply:

Before applying,  be sure to read the "Time Commitment" section above.  Then, complete the online registration form.  You'll be asked for recent CV and a brief description of your previous experiences of professional development. 

Application Due Date: 

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, but they must arrive no later than August 11, 2023. Questions can be directed to

Casper photo

Professor Emerita of Biology; serves as Faculty Leader for the program.

Heather Yavil Photo

Special Projects Coordinator in the School of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office, provides administrative and logistical support.

Each session is led by experienced faculty members representing the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. A list of speakers is forthcoming.

For more information, please contact:

Brenda Casper, Faculty Leader:

Heather Yavil, Special Projects Coordinator: