Meet Beth Overman
My name is Beth Overman, and I am a third year Physiology Graduate student at NCSU. During the Spring 2010 semester, I developed a pilot project for graduate students interested in teaching. Upon completion of my degree, my own career goals include becoming a college professor, and I wanted to help develop a program that could benefit other graduate students such who are interested in a career in academia. Such a program could not only prepare us for our future careers, but also give us new experiences and networking opportunities for future job searching.
Through partnering with the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching Program (CoAT) in the Graduate School and the EDGES (Education and Discovery Grounded in Engaged Scholarship) program in the Center for Nonprofits, both of which I was a member of, I wanted to find a way to provide a challenging teaching and learning experience graduate students interested in teaching. Dr. Barbi Honeycutt, the Director of Graduate Student Programs, and I developed a pilot project, called the Mentoring and Teaching Practicum (MATP). This program is designed for advanced CoAT graduate students, giving them experience in mentorship, observation, and teaching in an undergraduate classroom at this university or neighboring universities. Participants are offered the ability to gain an enhanced level of teaching experience, mentoring, and observation designed to increase professional development and preparation for a career in higher education. I believe that this program, and others like it offered through the NCSU Graduate School, will give graduate students interested in academic appointments the extra preparation and experience they need for a successful job search and first year of teaching.
When we began the program this past spring, each participant was paired with a mentor professor either here at NCSU or at a neighboring university. All of these professors are esteemed in their field, not only due to their research success, but due to their teaching expertise. These mentor professors, located at NC State, Wake Forest University, Elon University, Duke University, Meredith College, and Peace College offered vast experience, talent, and knowledge in teaching, research, and service in their respective fields. MATP participants interviewed their mentor professor, observed his/her teaching, taught one class session for the professor, and were observed by the mentor professor during the time of teaching. MATP Participants also met in discussion seminars to reflect and share experiences, discuss teaching strategies, and learn from one other.
I believe that this was an incredibly beneficial program for all those involved. Karen Bliss, a mathematics PhD student, reported, "Participating in MATP has really helped me think about what it means to be a faculty member. When I do search for a job, I feel like I'll be much better prepared to find out if I'll be a good fit with an institution." Another mathematics PhD student, Zach Abernathy, observed "Not only did my mentor offer some great teaching tips that I have immediately been able to integrate into my own classes, but he also had a wealth of advice for preparing job applications, deciding between a faculty and post-doc position, and local math conferences to attend to meet potential employers. " Steven Toaddy, a Psychology PhD student stated "The opportunity to not only interact with a mentor in teaching - to discuss teaching strategies, philosophies, career paths and tips-and-tricks, and to observe and teach a class - but even more importantly to hear of these experiences from numerous other participants in the program and to be able to integrate and extend this information has substantially bolstered my potential as a university professor. "
Personally, I believe that I benefited greatly from this program. Selfishly, I think that I benefited even more than the participants! Being able to be a part of the development of a graduate student program, establishing connections with educators at other universities, observing the MATP participants teaching, and facilitating our discussions reaffirmed and solidified my career goals in academia. I knew that I was passionate about education at the collegiate level—but creating a program to develop driven, engaged, successful professors increased my drive for a new level of leadership and learning. It was a joy to experience the growth of the program participants, and I learned so much from observing them that I can apply in my teaching in the future. Being a part of the leadership of this new program has increased the depth of my PhD program, enhanced my research aspirations, and focused my career goals. I feel extremely proud of what we accomplished this past semester, and I am looking forward to facilitating this program again in the fall.
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