Princeton Ph.D. students sample teaching at a community college

Princeton University doctoral students with officials from Princeton and Mercer County Community College. Photo: MCCCPrinceton University doctoral students with officials from Princeton and Mercer County Community College. Photo: MCCC

A New Jersey community college has launched a teaching partnership with Princeton University (PU) that will provide a select group of doctoral students at the university the opportunity to learn about the college and to also teach there as adjunct instructors.

Under the agreement, four Mercer County Community College faculty members are mentoring four PU doctoral students with a comprehensive orientation to the community college environment during the spring semester. The PU students will then teach in their disciplines as MCCC adjunct instructors in the fall.

The doctoral students are spending time in the classroom with their faculty mentors, attending college events and committee meetings, and taking advantage of professional development opportunities through the college’s Division of Innovation, Online Learning and Student Success, according to David Edwards, vice president for academic affairs at MCCC.

“This will be an intellectual exchange between faculty members at Mercer who have expertise in teaching in today’s community college classrooms and doctoral candidates interested in teaching in the community college setting,” he said. “MCCC students will benefit from the exchange through the expertise these doctoral students will share in the classroom on their dissertation topics.”

Princeton approached MCCC with the proposal last fall.

An introduction to the field

The Mercer-Princeton program will provide an excellent introduction into the teaching field for the university’s graduate students, said Cole Crittenden, deputy dean at Princeton’s Graduate School.

“They will be mentored by master teachers at Mercer and learn more about approaches to teaching in the community college context. The program will also introduce our students to online and hybrid teaching models that are used in community colleges,” he said.

PU student Sarah Islam, who is now several weeks into the program, said the experience has been fulfilling so far and the guidance of her MCCC faculty mentor has been very helpful.

“Not only do I have the opportunity to meet with Professor (Daniel) Schermond weekly to discuss productive teaching methods and inclusive teaching approaches, but I am also shadowing him as he attends departmental meetings and teaches courses,” Islam said. “All four of us are receiving personalized training in teaching a diverse student body and getting the opportunity to be trained and certified as instructors proficient in teaching online and hybrid courses.”

She added that she is looking forward to teaching her own course next semester.

“I cannot think of a better way to solidly prepare myself for the next stage of my career,” Islam said.

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