Teaching and Learning Center Fellows Find Fulfilling Careers
The TLC provides a space for Graduate Center students to grow as educators and to prepare for the academic job market.
The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) isn’t just a place where all Graduate Center students can take workshops, learn how to create teaching portfolios, and get advice on their job application materials. It also awards fellowships that support GC students and give them the opportunity to develop workshops and programs of their own. In recent years, many TLC fellows have drawn on that experience to secure academic positions upon graduation.
“TLC alumni have done well in finding tenure-track, staff, and non-academic positions because they are all driven by a seriousness about and commitment to their work,” says Luke Waltzer (Ph.D. ’09, History), the TLC’s director. “They came to the TLC in the first place because they care deeply about teaching and were drawn to the opportunity to help others grow.”
The center is a welcoming space for students at all levels of teaching experience, Waltzer says. Those just starting out might want to sign up for workshops or an individual consultation, or explore the Teach@CUNY Summer Institute and Teach@CUNY Handbook. Those with more experience can benefit from research opportunities through Focused Inquiry Groups, the center’s Visible Pedagogy blog, and partnerships with colleagues in the CUNY Humanities Alliance and GC Digital Initiatives. And those going out on the job market can get help with their statements of teaching philosophy, preparing for teaching demonstrations, and thinking about how teaching at CUNY might translate to different work opportunities.
The center’s reach extends to all of CUNY’s campuses, Waltzer notes. “GC students teach more than more than 140,000 undergraduates across the system each year,” he says. “Helping them become more confident and effective educators has an immeasurable impact on the experience of CUNY undergraduates, and the identity of the institution as a whole.”
Next year’s call for fellowships will go out in February. Six fellows alumni recently shared what they gained from the center:
Ryan Donovan (Ph.D. ’19, Theatre and Performance), assistant professor of Theater Studies, Duke University:
One of the most important things that the TLC provided for me was a sense of community, among other peers who were invested in thinking about pedagogy — not just how we do what we do in the classroom, but why we do what we do in the classroom. That kind of preparation, in addition to all of the teaching experience I got while I was a doctoral student, also helped me on the job market. Also, the ability to create workshops for other doctoral students was enormously beneficial. I did a workshop about juggling all of your different responsibilities and time management as a graduate student, which is a challenge that doesn’t go away, once you get any kind of job.
The TLC is very practice-based; it’s not only a theoretical experience. You’re helping other educators and, by extension, helping their students. You’re helping people you’ll never meet, which is actually a really lovely way to contribute to life at CUNY.
One thing that I loved about the TLC was that we were always encouraged to bring our research into our teaching, to deeply reflect on how one another intersect both in the classroom and in our writing, and to challenge those spaces as well. Learning this was a turning point on how I shaped my profile for the job search. I taught many classes during my time as a GC student, but having worked at the TLC was something that made me stand out among other candidates that also had a lot of teaching hours. Now, in my new job, I have all the tools to overcome challenges, such as teaching in a different context or navigating a new type of institution.
The TLC is a community of care. I always felt supported during my journey in the job market. I knew that I could share my vulnerabilities, failures, and successes. At the TLC we have such a challenging job: We reflect on what teaching is, how we teach, and, most importantly, we teach grad students how to teach. Some of the most inspiring, wonderful, and brilliant people I have met at the GC are TLC people.
Inés Vañó García (Ph.D. ’21, Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures), assistant professor of Spanish, Saint Anselm College:
The Teaching and Learning Center is truly an interdisciplinary and collaborative team of educators who are deeply committed to enhancing teaching across CUNY campuses. It is impossible to explain all that the TLC has meant to me during my years at the GC, both as a graduate student and as a member of the team: from hallway conversations and pedagogical discussions about open education, to ongoing opportunities to critically rethink my positionality as an educator and scholar, to the knowledge and hands-on experience in the digital humanities field, and even to the writing group with which I was able to finish my dissertation. It’s a community that has taught me to take risks, to accept, learn, and grow from my teaching failures, to transparently articulate my pedagogy, and, most importantly, it has shown me that higher education could be a space for caring, kindness, dialogue, and collaboration.
The Teaching and Learning Center helped me develop a critical and conscious approach to pedagogy. During my time as a fellow, I was exposed to new frameworks and exciting ideas, and given practical tools to hone a sensible and actively liberatory practice of teaching. Most importantly, I was given the space to nurture discussions and conversations around these materials with others who also view higher education as a place where to ignite little — but much needed — revolutions, even within the pages of a syllabus. I believe that I would not be in the role I am today, as an assistant professor at a CUNY college, without the student-centered practices I developed alongside the inspiring people I worked with at the TLC. I will always be deeply grateful to have had this fellowship and, in an indirect way, I hope my current and future students are, too.
Asilia Franklin-Phipps (TLC postdoctoral fellow), assistant professor of Educational Studies and Leadership, SUNY New Paltz:
The first thing about the TLC is that you have time for your work. The other is you’re working with all these people who are writing their dissertations, writing for publication, applying for jobs, and teaching. You’re in this space where you’re talking about those things together. It’s a generative, and generously supportive, environment.
I spent my time as a postdoc at the TLC figuring out what kind of scholar I wanted to be. What kind of teacher I wanted to be. And having that space, and colleagues in different fields read my work, I was able to develop my identity as a scholar. Teaching at CUNY, and being at the TLC, and talking and really thinking about teaching, gave me a lot of confidence on the job market. I can describe my approaches to teaching in a very sophisticated way that I think sets me apart from a lot of college professors who might have been teaching for 10, 15 years, but haven’t thought that much about teaching.
John Zayac, Ph.D. candidate (Earth and Environmental Sciences), volcanologist and Geology/Earth Science Educator, Vassar College:
I did a lot of listening and a lot of thinking about pedagogy in general at the TLC. I had never come across the term embodiment before, when thinking about teaching. How do you help people internalize this material that you’re asking them to master? Especially in the sciences, we have to do a lot of things like teaching the gateway courses to a major, but you might actually have to fill most of the seats with Gen Ed students. How do you balance your curricular needs with your pedagogy needs? The TLC fellowship gave me more of a background in where you could find resources for these kinds of questions, and how you could have cross-disciplinary conversations, and I walked away with even more of an appreciation of what is going on in research in the humanities and social sciences. The programming at the TLC is quite important for people who are thinking about going into science education. When they put out the call, it’s worth it for science students to apply for these fellowships.
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