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Fellowships for Teaching at Community College

June 12, 2017

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has entered into a groundbreaking partnership with Gateway Community College to give PhD students a way to broaden their classroom skills and enhance their teaching portfolios. The new program, Community College Teaching Fellowships (CCTF), was launched in the fall of 2016 with support from the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.

The CCTF program allows doctoral students to apply their Gateway teaching time toward their department’s teaching requirement as well as toward obtaining a CTL Teaching Certificate. 

The fellowships were made possible through the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI National Resource Center Funding to the MacMillan Center, and “it dovetails perfectly with the Title VI program’s goal of increasing university participation with community colleges in creating global curricula,” says Margaret Marcotte, director of international outreach in areas of Africa and the Middle East at the MacMillan Center. The Title VI is targeted for regional studies and foreign-language acquisition, and the Middle Eastern Studies and African Studies councils are providing support. 

Marcotte has a background in economic development and experience partnering with local colleges on educational outreach programs — including coordinating guest lectures at Gateway by Yale graduate students. She understood the value of enhancing Gateway students’ international perspective to prepare them to enter a globally competitive workforce or a four-year institution.

According to Mark Kosinski, dean of academic affairs at Gateway, “Having this partnership with Yale has certainly been a win-win situation for our students. … It gives them an opportunity to see different perspectives and gain new insights to which they may not otherwise be exposed.”

Marcotte also understood the benefits this would provide to Yale PhDs when they went on the academic job market.

Denise Lim (Sociology) had given guest lectures in Gateway classes, but wanted to do more. “I thought it would be really helpful to have community college teaching experience and actually get to see something through from beginning to end,” she says. She had worked with Marcotte to design a 2016 PIER Summer Institute for K-12 teachers on the topic of “Ancient Cities in Middle East and Africa.”

From working so closely together, Margaret knows how committed I am to bringing more visibility to African Studies, and she approached me with her idea of building a partnership with Gateway,” Lim says. “While PIER has had  outreach programs with junior high and high schools for quite a few years now, it had never attempted to go into community colleges. I thought this was not only an amazing opportunity to introduce Africanist scholarship to community college students, but also a pedagogically unique opportunity to teach and engage with a dynamic group of students who come in with rich life experiences, hopes, and aspirations for their future. Gateway students are incredibly diverse — some are adult learners with families of their own, others work one or more full-time jobs, and some are recent immigrants looking to transition into life in the United States.”

Lim and Marcotte put their heads together and worked with people at the Graduate School and CTL: Pamela Schirmeister, senior associate dean and dean of strategic initiatives, and Allegra Di Bonaventura, associate dean; Jennifer Frederick, executive director, and Kaury Kucera, interim director for graduate and postdoctoral teaching development at CTL.

The first graduate students to participate in the CCTF program were Lim, Nilay Erten (Anthropology), Huseyin Rasit (Sociology), and Ruthann Morgan (African Studies/Political Science). They taught Cultural Anthropology or Peace & Conflict Studies with Gateway Professor Carol Brutza or Introductory Sociology with Professor Jonah Cohen.

Professor Brutza says she enjoyed “the intellectual exchange and learning what they’re doing in their fieldwork,” as well as an opportunity for self-reflection. “I had to explain to them why I do things the way I do. It gave me a chance to rethink what I’m doing while I’m teaching.”

Professor Cohen appreciated that “the Yale students have done a lot of research that our students would not otherwise be exposed to. It shows them the opportunities within the field… and creates a fuller experience for our students.”

Erten, who taught with Brutza last fall, is from Turkey, which doesn’t have a community college system. “I was just open to the experience,” she said. “When I told the students that it was my first time lecturing, they were really encouraging. They gave me great feedback. It was a very fulfilling experience.”

Lim was the teaching fellow for Peace & Conflict Studies this spring. She says, “Every group you teach is different than the last. Sometimes they love what you’re doing, and other times they don’t. But I think it's the moments when they challenge you or when something doesn't seem to be working that you have the opportunity to learn how to do better. For me, the most satisfying and attractive aspect of this program is that I get the opportunity to bring African-based research and knowledge into a place where that has been either non-existent or deficient.”

Rasit, who taught with Cohen, found the experience both “fun and satisfying.” He wanted to improve his teaching skills, and this was “a great professional opportunity to interact with a diverse student body that challenged me with their eagerness to learn. We ended up having great discussions and a fruitful term.”

As a result of the success of the program at Gateway, the CTL plans to expand graduate teaching opportunities to additional nearby institutions in the near future.