Career exploration into undergraduate teaching

 In careers, PhD/Postdoc Blog, teaching

how to start career exploration

I began my career exploration journey into undergraduate teaching with a conversation. This was followed by exploring this career through workshops and an internship.

Don’t rest till your good is better and your better is the BEST

Since my undergraduate days, I have had a great interest in “college teaching” (or that’s what we called it back home). It was only later, after doing some career exploration, that I understood the various classifications of teaching, you can teach at a primarily undergraduate institute (PUI) or research-intensive institute (RI). From where I received my education, I never had a chance to work as an undergraduate teaching assistant, which means no classroom experience. I have mentored some students in their research projects as a graduate student and as a postdoc. After I came to the US, I joined Wayne State University (WSU) as a postdoc, and almost all of my efforts went towards research. Though the idea of undergraduate teaching was immature, it never left me, and I was very keen to find an opportunity to do some career exploration. Since I received all of my education outside of the USA, my first challenge was to understand the educational system in America and how it works; I wanted to test the waters before diving in.

In my previous blog post, I mentioned how a suggestion from a faculty member, at a networking event, helped me find new opportunities for career exploration. What I didn’t tell you was that when I approached the faculty member during that postdoctoral symposium the first thing that was on my mind was asking about undergraduate teaching resources/opportunities for postdocs at WSU. It was during this conversation, and a talk he gave later that day, that I learned about the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program at Wayne State. BEST is an NIH funded program designed for training doctoral and postdoctoral students in a variety of careers, including undergraduate teaching.

Choose (one of the) BEST option that suits you

 The first thing I did after the symposium was look up what career exploration opportunities the BEST program at WSU offers to doctoral/postdoctoral students; they had exactly what I was looking, an amateur’s guide to undergraduate teaching. They offer workshops to students interested in exploring careers like undergraduate teaching, the pharmaceutical industry, law, etc. Their 3 phase workshop series include informational sessions (Phase I), hands-on workshop (Phase II), and a paid internship (Phase III). Phase I is offered both on-site and online so you don’t miss out on your research (postdocs don’t have to worry about upsetting their PIs *wink*). Phase II is offered on the weekends, again saving your precious lab time. Phase III has an application and selection process and requires you to be a US citizen.

In addition to their 3 phase workshop series, BEST has much more to offer. One example is a workshop/boot-camp about how to customize your job application according to the requirements of the employer.

The BEST outcome

After I learned about the three-phase program, I signed up and attended phase I and II workshops. Towards the end of 2016, I received an email saying that phase III internships were available and applied immediately for an undergraduate teaching internship. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was shortlisted for an interview. Eventually, I was selected to co-teach chemistry at the University of Detroit Mercy. The journey that began with an online workshop set me on a path that I wanted to take but did not know where the trailhead was. Since then I have entered this whole new world of undergraduate teaching, which is exciting and enlightening. In addition, I have attended a lot of other workshops, which I will be talking about in my next blog.

Start your own career exploration journey

Don’t wait for opportunities to knock on your door, step outside your comfort zone, make connections, ask questions, and do some career exploration. Like they say, “the sky is the limit.” However, I would say there is no limit to the opportunities out there. All you need to do is explore and find where you belong. Till my next blog, happy exploring

Don’t rest till your good is better and your better is the BEST


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