Relationships are at the core of the college experience course. There is the relationship between students and the professor, the students and the course assistant (CA) and the professor and the CA. Each relationship impacts the environment of the class and the experience of students.
Ann Lawson, instructor of communication arts, considers working with her CA team teaching.
“It’s not just that the student helps me teach, but rather we are a team; we’re equals and we both divide the material and how we approach it,” said Lawson.
Lawson has seen how the mentorship can lead to better student relationships in her five years of being a college experience instructor.
“I’m constantly surprised at how our students are able to connect with each other right away, like at camp Gideon,
because so many of the students come from different backgrounds, different parts of the country in some cases,” Lawson said.
Led by the CA, students learn to support one another through various activities, including making signs for student athletes in their section.
Lawson’s CA is Alexis Kreiner, senior public relations major, who uses her weekly time with Lawson as a springboard for investing in students.
“It’s really cool just being with them, and even in some cases walking alongside them as they’re dealing with some really major issues, either with the college transition, or what’s going on at home or just personally,” Kreiner said.
Marcia Everett, director of the college experience and professor of communication arts, said the interaction of CAs and students is an important aspect of adjusting to college.
“I think it’s really important for first year students to get to know an upperclass peer and faculty member as a way of connecting and having somebody that is exclusively paying attention to and caring about their experience,” Everett said.
The relationships in the college experience look different year-to-year and class-to-class, but each one offers an exciting challenge.
“Every year is going to be great because they’re people who have been invested in and cared for by the people who came before them, so it is a legacy that is being passed down year after year,” said Everett.
The stronger relationships between students and professors and CAs, the stronger the community of the class. This translates into a more enjoyable experience for all.
Isaac Brenneman, sophomore creative writing major and course assistant for Everett, said he has found his work rewarding.
“Just getting into [being a CA] has been really enjoyable, and I completely enjoy working with my section,” Brenneman said. “It’s a lot of [things] I don’t get to do otherwise.”
In order to ensure CAs are committed to building relationships with students, a rigorous selection process has been developed.
This process includes turning in an application with a student and professor recommendation and going through several interviews, both group and individual.
The chosen CAs then come back to campus early and go through training with Everett. This training includes a retreat and daily activities that build teamwork and equip the CAs for the responsibility required of them for the position.
Cathy Weyand is a staff writer for The Aviso