CUTF: Figuring it Out

Like many undergraduate students, I came to Pitt believing I would go on to medical school. My freshman year I took courses like Chemistry and Biology but quickly realized I did not have a passion for what I was learning. I started to explore other classes the university had to offer. I tried computer science, architecture, and psychology, trying to find the right fit. I finally took International Relations with Dr. Jude Hays. We used R in this class to analyze conflicts and patterns of international states. I immediately fell in love with the idea of using computer science and data science to study the humanities. Dr. Hays connected me to Dr. Andrew Lotz who would later become both my advisor and the faculty member for which I am an undergraduate teaching assistant. Dr. Lotz helped me navigate the process to create my own major, one that eventually became its own major in the Dietrich School. My advice for anyone trying to connect with a faculty member is to show interest in their area of study and simply ask! Professors truly love students who are engaged and excited about the material, and they would love to provide resources to a student like this.

Being a TA through the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship has taken some getting used to. As students, our primary responsibility throughout college is to learn from our professors, so it’s strange when your peers ask you questions or the professor defers to you in class. However, it has made me more comfortable both public speaking and admitting I have made a mistake. I learn even more being a TA than when I am simply a student because my peers help me as much as I help them. Next week, I am responsible for teaching an entire class period alone. I am nervous because I am not a professor, and it feels strange to get up and lecture in front of people my age. Although it will be uncomfortable, I am excited to see what discussion is fostered throughout this class period.

Ultimately, if you are interested in teaching or trying something new, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors or TAs. If you want more practice tutoring, you can always teach for the tutoring center or other clubs that need mentors.

Until next time!

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