Competency #7: Reflection

7. Teaching, Presentation, and Publication

Competency #7 addresses the student affairs professional’s need to become an effective educator, not just an administrator. “Teaching” conjures images of an adult standing in front of seated and (hopefully) attentive pupils. As I know now, teaching goes beyond that; student affairs administrators find teachable moments in everyday situations. Even advisors can be considered teachers in this career field. In my first professional role, I anticipate guiding students towards making autonomous decisions. I hope to help them consider why they are in college and why it matters. Gaining this insight required exploring teaching, presentation, and publication in non-traditional ways, as I discuss in this reflection.

My experience teaching has been a bit of a departure from the typical CSSA student. Most of my peers have taught various Academic Success courses, but I was lucky enough to land in my job at the same time that a new, grant-funded course was implemented. The University Honors College (UHC) planned to offer an orientation course for transfer students in STEM fields beginning in Fall 2010. Since I had expressed interest in working with transfer students at some point in my interview, I was approached on my first day of work and basically told that facilitating the class would be part of my responsibilities.

Teaching was, to put it lightly, very intimidating, especially in my situation. It was a new class with a new teacher, designed to orient new students to a new school. About ten students enrolled in the course, and their majors varied, even within the STEM fields. Although I had expressed my interest in working with transfer students, this was something that was founded on experiences, not formal research. The first thing I did was try and find relevant literature to inform myself about the status of transfer students. I found a compelling article written by Laanan (2001) about transfer student adjustment, and its overview of the challenges transfer students face became the foundation for what the class would address. Laanan (2001) noted that students often felt lost in their new institutions, so one of the primary goals became orienting students to the services and culture of Oregon State University. Furthermore, I assigned students sections from the article to read, as another one of the outcomes was that students understood the value in offering an orientation course specifically for transfer students. Grading was on a participation and Pass/No Pass basis; students in the class were on scholarships which required their participation in the course to receive funding, so motivation to attend was at least built-in.

As expected, the class was somewhat rocky given my inexperience in both teaching and how to best relay information. Those of us from the UHC tasked with developing the course followed up with students in the spring to gather feedback on what worked and what did not work. One student had decided that OSU was not the institution for her, so she decided to transfer to an institution closer to her home; in that sense, at least she had been able to participate in some exploration of her values and personal recipe for success. Another student, who had expressed frustration over a portion of class that dealt with research and study abroad opportunities that were not relevant to his major, also expressed how thankful he was that resources on OSU’s campus were shared. He told us that in his major, students were assumed to be traditional upperclassmen with knowledge of organizational culture and resources. Without the orientation class, he stated that he would have essentially been hopelessly lost.

The second implementation of the course was incredibly different and, from my standpoint, markedly improved. Several of us met over the summer to discuss changes. I was tasked with designing the new syllabus, after we talked about what had worked well in the previous class and what needed to be improved. I outlined new learning outcomes and designed assignments and projects which would enable my students to connect with staff, faculty, and their peers. The class, in its next inception, would provide space for new students to discuss relevant issues, like study skills, time management, and navigating OSU, with smaller cohorts within the class. Assignments were designed with the intention of requiring students to explore campus; one assignment had the cohorts decide on an activity that could promote personal wellness as well as orient them to what was available on campus. One group took a tour of Dixon Recreation Center while another group planned a bowling night which turned into a Frisbee-fest; afterwards, groups reported back on their experiences and how it changed or did not change their perceptions of how they fit in at OSU.

Additionally, with the overhauls in the course, I was given the opportunity to work with four undergraduates, which really was my first professional venture into supervising. Although I had the wonderful support of staff and faculty from the UHC, I made sure throughout group discussions that my teaching assistants were comfortable in leading the talks and related tasks. Working with this set of people was a great experience, as they definitely showcased their different preferences for communication. Several were very prompt in email responses while the others preferred to talk to me in-person. I cannot say that one or the other was worse, and I got a good sense of the investment the teaching assistants had in helping others transition into a new environment.

Given the nature of this course and the grant that funds it, students are expected to come together or communicate throughout the academic year. Currently, I am in the process of determining which methods are the best for this, whether it is better to have students meet with their teaching assistant/peer advisor or if it is better to have the groups reconvene.

One of my favorite memories about teaching this course comes from an original assignment. The idea was brainstormed by our dean and the executive assistant to have students conduct interviews with staff or faculty at the university. Since students coming from community colleges are often used to individual attention and more interactions with their professors, the assignment was meant to help students put a face to their new institution. Several groups interviewed professors in their departments; they reported back how surprised they were at some of the conversations they had. One group was truly impressed to hear that a professor had held nearly every job under the college sun, including that of janitor. Another group decided to interview me, their primary facilitator. They came away from the conversation with an understanding of how much staff and faculty truly care about their success.

As stated earlier, the success of the second offering of the orientation class hinged on student feedback, as well as experiences I had over my first year of graduate school. Notably, I developed a greater understanding of the diverse needs of community college students thanks to my time at Wenatchee Valley College. Immersing myself in the community college environment helped me to remember the dynamic of relationships at the two-year college level, and by doing so, I was able to provide my students with a more empathetic understanding of the transition they experienced. As such, HC299 developed into a more dynamic and engaging course which focused equally on academic success and community connections.

Currently, I have yet to present at a professional conference; however, I have submitted program proposals previously, including an accepted poster session for the regional NAFSA conference. (Ultimately, I was unable to attend the conference due to time conflicts.) A fellow colleague and I are developing a proposal for the upcoming NASPA regional conference, and with the help of several close CSSA friends who have already presented at multiple conferences, I am hopeful for my session’s chances.

In terms of publication, I have several works published in venues outside of peer-reviewed journals. My proudest accomplishment has been the publication of an article I wrote in the NASPA International Education Knowledge Community’s Fall 2011 newsletter. It outlined the international internship experience, highlighting how short-term study abroad programs are still beneficial, especially at the graduate level. I also contributed to The Daily Barometer and a blog to discuss the benefits of volunteering on an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip. The irony to having this particular piece published in two different places was that I got very ill after the 2011 NASPA conference, forcing me to cancel my ASB plans.

Overall, I have a sound foundation for teaching, publication, and presentation, including teaching and facilitating in the classroom, as well as developing training documents for specific populations. I anticipate pursuing even more opportunities in my professional career, and I am making it a goal to become involved in research surrounding transfer student services. Hopefully, from there, I will eventually find my way into the journal circuit.

References

Laanan, F. S. (2001). Transfer student adjustment. New Directions for Community Colleges, 114, 5-13.

Publications

Feroglia, A. (2011). Life as an international intern. NASPA International Education Knowledge Community: Fall 2011 Newsletter, 3-5.

Feroglia, A. (2011, March 7). Why you should consider an alternative spring break during college. [Web
log comment]. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/dPKWxJ

Feroglia, A. (2011, February 16). Community Service Center offers ‘alternative spring break.’ The Daily
Barometer. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/zO6oXw

3 thoughts on “Competency #7: Reflection

  1. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    In this section your writing focuses mostly on your experiences. I’d like to learn more about the intentionality that went into creating your class, as well as the thought behind your methods of teaching. What were some of your best practices? How do you know that your students actually learned what you hoped they would?

  2. Eric Stoller says:

    I know that this is one area (presenting) that is a challenge for you. Your writing skills are very well developed. However, for your defense, I hope that you’re able to take what you’ve learned and give a presentation that would pass muster were it at a national event. I know you can do it. Experience is such a huge part of teaching and presenting. What would happen if you presented as often as you write (in the formal sense)?

    • Ardith says:

      I would probably be more well networked, that’s for sure. Presenting more would definitely give me more reason to consider what unique experiences I have that can be shared with the field. Considering that I do enjoy having an audience, presentations would be a natural way to further fuse my personal interests with professional growth.

      With time, too, presenting would become something that would be much less intimidating; it’s just a matter of getting started and into the swing of things.

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