Graduate Teaching Scholar Program fosters relationships for fruitful careers

Two women examine a scientific instrument.

Tess Thompson, associate professor of biological systems engineering (left) and Chelsea Corkins, a doctoral candidate who is part of the Graduate Teaching Scholars Program, discuss strategies for developing teaching concepts using a device that measures water levels.

By Amy Loeffler

The college’s Graduate Teaching Scholar Program fills the gap that exists between the course work that students take and the research they do by encouraging collaboration, camaraderie, and mentorships between new doctoral students and faculty members — which in turn produces confident scholars and gifted instructors.

The GTS Program allows participants and faculty members to form deep relationships that often shed light on the more practical aspects of teaching that aren’t learned in a book.

Former GTS participant Gabrielle Fundaro, an assistant professor of exercise science at Georgia Gwinnet College in Lawrenceville, Georgia, currently teaches introductory science, sports nutrition, anatomy, and physiology.

“Participating in the GTS Program was invaluable,” said Fundaro. “It enriched my whole graduate experience, and getting feedback from my collaborative professors, Associate Professor Donna Westfall-Rudd and Associate Dean Susan Sumner, was one of the reasons I found the program so helpful.”

Even though Fundaro had been an instructor of record at Virginia Tech, she would not have been prepared to teach effectively had it not been for participating in the program, she said. She learned to employ the new technologies and positive teaching structures that helped her develop curriculum for students who are nontraditional learners and primarily first-generation college students.

Another participant, human nutrition, foods, and exercise student Angela Bailey, is a three-quarter-time instructional faculty member in health and exercise science at Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey. She received her doctorate in December.

As a GTS participant, Bailey took advantage of networking opportunities such as the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research’s workshops and conferences. These events allowed greater interaction with faculty members who offered tips, advice, and a forum for discussing higher education teaching methodologies.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the mentoring relationships it fostered helped me understand how to design my instruction for more effective learning.” -Angela Bailey, GTS participant

At one event, Bailey learned how to engage students in a large classroom and steer away from passive lectures by using clicker technology to take spontaneous, real-time polls of students, which is an effective engagement tool for large classrooms.