I was lucky enough to be afforded this opportunity to be an undergraduate teaching assistant through what seems to be pure luck. In May of 2020, the Political Science department sent out inquiries looking for undergraduate students who were interested in serving as Research Assistants. I applied and was then matched up with Dr. Andrew Lotz, and things just fell right in to place! I thought that this would just be an opportunity to learn about research in political science and a way to spend the summer during a pandemic, but I ended up continuing into the fall and becoming an undergraduate teaching assistant.
I had experiences with Dr. Lotz previously as he is my Political Science departmental advisor, and I also took his Political Theory course during Spring 2020. Personally, it was quite interesting and eye-opening moving from the role of student and advisee to collaborator, and ultimately to co-instructor! As we continued working together, I grew to feel more comfortable seeing myself as Dr. Lotz’s colleague instead of just as a student due to how he approached me and my work; he was always very understanding of any unusual circumstances that arose and he made sure that I knew my work was appreciated. When it came time to providing thoughts about the structure of the course, I knew that my opinions and feedback were valued.
I was worried about how I was going to execute my duties as a UTA in conducting an entire two and a half hour class, but Dr. Lotz had created an environment in which I was free to be open about my anxieties and concerns. He gave me the room to develop ideas for how I was going to run my class, and then provided me with constructive feedback. He also provided new ideas to toy around with so that my class was everything I wanted it to be, like utilizing a google form to gauge the prior knowledge of students. Dr. Lotz helped me build my confidence not only in presenting a lecture and guiding a discussion with students, but also in reassuring me that I know what I am talking about and to not doubt my abilities. The class I taught ended up going very well as students were engaged and developed an insightful discussion on gender relations in early America and Hamilton’s life; I am proud of myself for what I was able to put together and very thankful for Dr. Lotz’s help along the way.
If you are interested in pursuing an opportunity to connect with your professors or faculty in your department, I would highly recommend taking advantage of any opportunity that comes your way because you never know what may happen. Even if you are not too interested in research, it does not hurt to apply because it will help you gain valuable skills and allow you to form a unique bond with a faculty member who cares about your personal, educational, and professional growth. If you are not hearing about these opportunities, then I would recommend reaching out to any professors that you click with or specialize in areas that are of particular interest to you. I feel that most faculty members are willing to help you grow and provide opportunities if you show that you want to make it happen.
[ cover photo is from “Hamilton: The Exhibition” in Chicago, IL that I visited in June 2019. ]