Kennesaw State University

A Welcome Letter to our Graduate Students

Jul 31, 2018 | by Linda Stewart | Kennesaw State University

Hello and Welcome,

This letter is a welcome to all graduate students interested in teaching and learning. My name is Linda Stewart and I am the Assistant Director of Graduate Student Support at CETL. I’ve been teaching for the English Department at KSU since 1998, when I arrived in Atlanta from the University of New Hampshire. Along the way, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching undergraduates in the General Education Program, Honors students in KSU’s Honors program, American Studies students in the AMST program, English Education students in the English Education program, and supervising Master’s students in MAST and English Education. For the past few years, I have been working in faculty development at CETL and have found “a place where I belong.”  I happen to like that phrase for several reasons, but let me tell you one.

At the end of the semester, in an undergraduate writing class with a community-studies theme, I asked students to write one sentence that captured their views about the class. Not an easy task. One young woman wrote that everyone “should find a place where they belong and make themselves known.” Her comment reminds me of how thoughtful and engaged our first-year students can be. Also, it underscores the activist nature of joining a university—seeking out spaces on campus that rejuvenate and challenge you intellectually, professionally, and personally--and then making change happen.

As graduate students, you are the change-makers, the knowledge-creators. But you can’t do it alone and you can’t do it perfectly. Graduate students who succeed—and that will be you—seek out several mentors to support them through the (sometimes bumpy) stages of their program. At CETL, we are here to support your teaching. Whether you are thinking of a career in higher education or another field, a background in teaching and learning is invaluable. Many of you will have the privilege of teaching first-year students in your discipline, which may be one of the most rewarding parts of your graduate work at KSU. I can assure you that your students will teach you about yourself and your discipline in a way that your coursework alone cannot.

How do you summarize the complexities and wonder and frustrations and joys of teaching in a few words? We can look back to John Dewey: “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” Or, look forward to bell hooks: “The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy.” In our classrooms, we can evoke students’ curiosity and promote their persistence if we show we care about them and their learning. That care is partly demonstrated by promptly answering emails, being available for conferences, arriving prepared for class, and varying instruction to meet diverse students’ needs. Recently, I’m inspired by reading Stephen Brookfield’s writing “in a sympathetic way about the travails, pleasures, and serendipities of college teaching” in The Skillful Teacher.

Should you decide to join a community of teachers here at KSU, we are here to help. We look forward to working with you to provide transformative and innovative learning experiences for KSU undergraduates. Welcome! ~ LHS