Collaborative effort yields Community College Teaching Fellowship

Yale University and Gateway Community College (GCC) have partnered on an exciting and unique project that benefits students in both institutions of higher learning. The Community College Teaching Fellowship (CCTF), which began in the fall of 2016 with support from the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, offers Yale Ph.D. students the opportunity to broaden and enhance their teaching skills in Gateway’s classrooms. GCC students, in turn, gain a world of international experience and knowledge.

“It’s really a beneficial arrangement for both Yale and Gateway,” said Margaret Marcotte, Director of Educational Outreach at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. “The CCTF program is made possible through the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI NRC Funding, and it dovetails perfectly with the Title VI programs’ goal of increasing university participation with community colleges in creating its global curricula.”

According to Mark Kosinski, Dean of Academic Affairs at GCC, “Having this partnership with Yale has certainly been a win-win situation, particularly for our students. We’re bringing some extraordinary people to this campus that will work with our faculty, but most of all, our students. It gives them an opportunity to see different perspectives and gain new insights to which they may not otherwise be exposed.”

The CCTF program, which stemmed from the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning’s (CTF) Teaching Certificate program, allows Yale students from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to apply their GCC teaching time toward their doctoral program requirement. For certification, students must complete a series of teaching requirements including: developing instructional materials, co-teaching, classroom observations and attending 8 Advanced Level Teaching Workshops at the CTL.

Marcotte was the first to recognize the advantages of the program. With a background in economic development, she understood the importance of enhancing the international framework from which Gateway students would prepare to enter into a globally competitive workforce or a four-year institution.  She has worked with GCC on a variety of educational outreach programs, including arranging for Yale graduate students to guest lecture on regional topics related to Gateway’s classrooms. Denise Lim, a Ph.D. student in African Studies, had taught in three of them, 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 said.

Lim and Marcotte discussed the possibility of incorporating a semester-long Teaching Fellowship at GCC, but constraints on available teaching time was the major obstacle. That conversation spurred Marcotte to approach the chairs of the councils for which she does educational outreach – Michael Cappello, Professor of Pediatrics, Microbial Pathogenesis, and Public Health (Council on African Studies), and Jonathan Wyrtzen, Associate Professor of Sociology (Acting Chair for Council on Middle East Studies) – to get their feedback on the program she and Lim had outlined. Both professors loved the idea and were extremely supportive of the idea.

“This exciting initiative is a wonderful example of how the MacMillan Center promotes teaching and learning about contemporary global issues and the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Dr. Cappello. “The Council on African Studies is proud to have played a role in its development.”

With the Chairs’ involvement, Marcotte collaborated with Pamela Schirmeister, Senior Associate Dean and Dean of Strategic Initiatives, and Allegra Di Bonaventura, Associate Dean, at GSAS; Jennifer Frederick, Executive Director, and Kaury Kucera, Interim Director for Graduate and Postdoctoral Teaching Development, both at CTL; and Mark Kosinski, Dean of Academic Affairs at GCC, to bring the CCTF program to fruition.

“The turning point in this whole thing was when Margaret and I realized that the CCTF program was possible, and through it, we could not only support more graduate students, but also demystify community college teaching through this experience,” said Kucera.

The first graduate students to participate in the CCTF program were Lim (Sociology), Nilay Erten (Anthropology), Huseyin Rasit (Sociology), and Ruthann Morgan (African Studies/Political Science). They each taught in either Professor Carol Brutza’s Cultural Anthropology or Peace & Conflict classes or in Professor Jonah Cohen’s Introductory Sociology class. They are very eager to share their individual stories on the positive impact the students have had on them and their ability to teach.

Erten, who taught in Professor Brutza’s classes, 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. There’s a light you see in their eyes. They gave me great feedback. It was a very fulfilling experience.”

Professors Brutza and Cohen were just as enthusiastic about the program. The biggest benefit to Brutza was “the intellectual exchange and learning what they’re doing in their fieldwork,” as well as an opportunity for self-reflection. “There was a learning curve for me because I’m used to doing things a certain way,” said Brutza. “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 them.”

For Cohen, it was the fact that “the Yale students have done a lot of research that our students just would not otherwise be exposed to. It shows them the opportunities within the field. The conversations between the Yale and GCC students are important because they enhance what I do and creates a fuller experience for our students.”

Although only in its pilot academic year, the Community College Teaching Fellowship has proven by all accounts to be successful. So successful, in fact, that the Graduate School and CTL both have plans in place to expand similar graduate teaching opportunities to nearby institutions in the near future.