Students juggle multiple roles

Anthony Salerno has learned that being a graduate student is like a quick-change artist’s performance.

Before going to teach his marketing class, Salerno changes from his workout clothes to the more professional khakis and button-down shirt. As a Ph.D. student at the business school, he has learned that graduate school involves juggling research, teaching and academics.

However Salerno, better known to his MKT 301 class as Tony, isn’t too fazed.

“It’s a challenge to manage my time among all of those different things, but it is really no different from the schedule of a typical professor,” he said.

Salerno isn’t alone. He is one of dozens of graduate students who are currently teaching undergraduate classes at UM. While teaching requirements differ by department, all graduate students have access to resources that train them to run their own classes.

UM’s Preparing Future Faculty Program, offered to select graduate and post-doctoral students, provides opportunities to learn about faculty roles and responsibilities through workshops, seminars and hands-on activities.

Additionally, groups such as the Graduate Teacher Learning Community exist on campus to help students with issues they may be experiencing in the classroom or in preparing to teach.

While the marketing department requires Salerno to teach a course on his own before he graduates this semester, he enjoys doing so. But it is not always an easy road.

Many graduate student professors, like doctoral student Ewing Medina, feel that they neither identify solely as a student nor as a professor.

“When you are assumed to be a faculty member, but you aren’t really on the faculty, you don’t get those benefits; it’s very easy to be an invisible grad student,” said Medina, who is also the Graduate Student Association vice president.

For undergraduate students, however, graduate student instructors are anything but invisible.

“Being taught by a grad student is nice because they’re so much more relatable,” said freshman Erin Fischer, whose psychology class is taught by a grad student. “They’re not working for tenure; they’re working to build their future, just like the rest of us.”

Students may relate more to Salerno and refer to him on a first-name basis, but they respect him and other graduate student professors as they would any established faculty member.

“It’s easier to connect with them when they’re younger,” sophomore Leslie Baker said. “But there really isn’t a difference. They’re still our teachers.”