In an effort to increase the number of quality teaching opportunities for graduate students fulfilling their requirements, a new program piloted this semester by the History Department has paired doctoral candidates with professors to teach seminars.
The Seminar Fellow Program allows graduate students to help design, plan and teach seminars normally led solely by faculty members, said Judith Hackman, director of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Teaching Fellow Program. Administrators said the initiative started this semester with four history seminars since the History Department struggled to find space for graduate students seeking positions. Hackman and Pamela Schirmeister ’80 GRD ’88, associate dean of Yale College and the Graduate School, said they will decide whether to expand the program after gathering feedback from participants and consulting with directors of graduate studies.
“Graduate students are always looking for teaching that will help them learn better how to teach and also help them on the job market,” Hackman said.
Hackman and Schirmeister said they hope the new program will resemble Associates in Teaching (AT), a competitive program where students and faculty members apply jointly to teach lectures or seminars. The Seminar Fellow Program is less costly than the AT program, which they said has been “hugely successful but really expensive” since its launch three years ago. Unlike the AT program, the Seminars Fellow Program will pay graduate students using funding already allocated to them for their teaching requirements. Three courses in the AT program met last fall, and the 12 are running this spring, according to the website of the Teaching Center of the Graduate School.
Bill Rando, director of the Graduate Teaching Center and the AT program, said the two programs will complement each other.
“The AT program really showed just how terrific it is when faculty members and graduate students are in the class together,” he said.
Two faculty members and two teaching fellows in the Seminar Fellows program all said the complementary dynamic between the two instructors has enhanced the classroom experience. History professor Glenda Gilmore, teaches “The American South, 1870 to the Present,” said she works closely with her teaching fellow Andy Horowitz GRD ’14 to plan the syllabus, tweak it week-to-week, provide feedback on essays and lead class discussions.
“Because there are two of us, we can engage more deeply with the student seminar leaders each week, and we can offer everyone more advice on their research papers,” Gilmore said in an email. “We have developed roles in class that I hope are complementary. He stops the discussion and demands facts and chronologies; I ruminate about southern oddities like night soil and ham.”
Michael Bustamante GRD ’15, who is the seminar fellow for history professor Gilbert Joseph’s course “History of Mexico since Independence,” said in an email that he has appreciated the chance to see how a “veteran professor” conducts a seminar, adding that he has been “inspired” by Joseph’s passion for the material.
Four students in classes with seminar fellows also expressed enthusiasm for the program. Connor Kenaston ’14, who is taking Gilmore’s course, said the seminar fellow in the course elevates the level of discussion.
“I get the sense that [the professor and seminar fellow] both know the topic really well, so the back and forth is really smooth,” Kenaston said. “[The seminar fellow] really helps balance the discussion.”