A few weeks ago, in a post about the Rackham-CRLT Intercampus Mentorship Program, we promised to share stories from some of the program's former participants. This guest post from Sarah Gerk tells what an amazing professional development opportunity the program can be. For more details about the program--open to any U-M graduate student or postdoc--see this page. [Edit 5/13/16: The mentorship program ended in 2016, but that need not prevent graduate students and postdocs from setting up highly beneficial mentoring relationships on their own.]

It was only about a year ago now that I nervously sent an email to Charles McGuire, Professor of Musicology at Oberlin College, to ask if he would be interested in becoming my mentor. Little did I know then that the relationship initiated with that email would become one of the most helpful of my career--not only because it provided me invaluable experience with and advice about teaching, but also because I was lucky enough to get an amazing job out of it.Sarah Gerk

I chose Oberlin for my mentorship experience because of its unique combination of a small liberal arts school and music conservatory. Having attended large public schools my entire life, I wanted to explore different models before entering the job market. My mentorship involved a series of monthly visits to the Oberlin campus. I guest lectured in classes, spoke with faculty members about their teaching, and got to know a few students who were thinking about pursuing musicology in graduate school. From the beginning, Charles McGuire was a generous, kind, and valuable mentor. We spent hours hashing out the finer points of my teaching philosophy, debating the possibilities of large lectures versus small discussions, and discussing the benefits of Oberlin’s model of higher education.

Steve Skerlos, Thurnau Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has become so well known among his colleagues as a deeply engaged and innovative teacher that his name has become for many of them a synonym for pedagogical success. His department has developed their own playful terminology: a “Skerlosian Effort” indicates a high score on the “Skerlosian Scale” of teaching effectiveness.

Thurnau professor Steve SkerlosProfessor Skerlos’s own Skerlosian Efforts are many and lasting; students past and present enthusiastically describe the long-term impact he has had on their academic and professional lives. In describing his teaching, they regularly mention his passion, his ability to teach to a range of learning styles, and his sensitive mentoring. Students and colleagues alike praise Skerlos’s model of “learning through doing”—his drive to enable students to become engineers by working as engineers, side-by-side with their professor.
Professor Skerlos sparks and fosters student passion partly by emphasizing the potential of good engineering to do good in the world.  He has put sustainability at the center of undergraduate education in engineering, co-creating key programs and specializations in Sustainable Engineering, Global Health Design, and Sustainable Water and Energy. The Program in Sustainable Engineering, where Skerlos is now Director, has a 9-credit specialized study in sustainable engineering. The program is working towards educating all undergraduate engineers in sustainability awareness and how they can act positively in the field through design. Through the work of BLUElab, a student-run program he co-founded, Skerlos has cultivated student interest in sustainability by mentoring and collaborating with student teams on projects that seek to, for instance, recover heat from residential shower water and convert farm waste to bioenergy.

Online collaboration tools, such as Google Apps, are revolutionizing workplace productivity and teamwork. These technologies also provide tremendous opportunities to enhance teaching, learning, and course management. Because keeping up with the evolution of new instructional technologies can be challenging, CRLT has posted some new resources focused on U-M teachers who are successfully integrating these tools into their courses: 

  • CRLT's webpage on online collaboration tools features short videos, descriptions, and examples of U-M instructors teaching effectively with these technologies.
  • Similarly, CRLT's Occasional Paper No. 31 (pdf), describes how various online collaboration tools can address common teaching challenges across course types and disciplines. Additionally, it provides recommendations on how to implement these instructional technologies easily, effectively, and efficiently.

And here are several other resources we provide to support your effective use of instructional technologies: 

Registration is now open for CRLT's winter-term Graduate Student Instructor Teaching Orientation, a.k.a. GSITO.  This year, GSITO will be held on Tuesday, January 8, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Michigan League.workshop participants

Consider registering for GSITO if you're seeking opportunities to:
  • make connections with other GSIs,
  • gather ideas to catalyze your own development as a teacher,
  • allay some of the common concerns about the first days of teaching,
  • practice some teaching techniques before you step into your own classroom, and/or
  • learn about additional CRLT resources for GSIs.

All graduate students are welcome to attend, whether they will teach for the first time in Winter 2013, have taught before, or simply hope to teach in the future. Some departments require that new GSIs attend GSITO -- check with the GSI Coordinator in your department to see if this is the case for you. Participation in GSITO also fulfills one of the requirements for the Graduate Teacher Certificate

workshop participants