In the academic year 2016/2017, I served as a Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Political Science. In addition to regular duties such as leading weekly discussion sections, assisting with creating quizzes and exams, and grading, I put together material to use in my sections. Highlights included a discussion of how the United States is viewed abroad (via PEW’s “America’s Global Image”-survey), “Dictator Time” when students could identify the most-pressing policy issues and explain how they would solve them, and “New and Groovy”-sessions where we would examine the past week in the news. The material I compiled for every session was heavily focused on student participation and centered around videos, research papers, and newspaper articles. Everything was also shared with my fellow Teaching Assistants.
During the academic year of 2017/2018, I was the primary instructor for two Introduction to Political Science classes. My responsibilities included putting together lectures, grading memos, exams, and a final paper. The main highlights for every semester were a class discussion of a New York Times article on “Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong” (Blattman and Dercon 2017), and the “Ideologies Abroad”-segment. The latter had students use the “Wahl-o-Mat 2017”, a voting app for the German Federal Elections, to see what German party they would best align with based on their attitude towards certain political statements. I provided access, my personal translations and a guide on how to use the app.
In the Fall of 2018, I was the primary instructor for one Introduction to International Relations class. My duties were setting up the class and lectures and creating and grading in-class tests, a midterm, and a final essay. The highlights included hosting two guest speakers. The first, a Brazilian Ph.D. student in Political Science and Economics, gave a presentation on the “2018 Brazilian Elections” and its political and economic impacts. The second guest speaker, a Professor Emeritus from the University of Tennessee, provided information and his personal impressions of German Reunification. Students had to submit questions for both talks, and elements of what was presented made it into the midterm and final exams.
For the Summer of 2019, I joined my Department Head’s study abroad program in Italy (UTK Political Science in Italy) as a Teaching Assistant. Before leaving for Florence, I assisted with the final preparations and setting up the two courses Arts & Politics and Medieval Political Thought. In Italy, I was in a supporting role for classes. During our field trips, I coordinated with the instructor and local guide to make sure students were getting the most out of their time in Italy. Moreover, I acted as a secondary point of contact for students outside of official class times and helped them better adjust to living in Europe. My highlights were seeing the students overcome initial culture shock, gain a better understanding of other cultures, and slowly become familiar with what was foreign to them at the beginning. For me, it was fascinating to see how the students were experiencing what I did when I first became an exchange student in the United States. This showed me that studying abroad can be an integral part of students’ education and personal growth and should be open to everyone, regardless of background or financial situation.
In addition to my teaching responsibilities during the years, I was also called upon many times to teach classes in times of need. While most of them were seminar-style intro-level courses, such as Introduction to Comparative Politics, Introduction to Public Administration, or Research Methods with around 35 students each, I had to instruct a 150-student lecture for Introduction to Political Science a few times as well.