Caldwell Fellows serve as teaching assistants to help seminar students get the most from community partnerships.
By Stacy Chandler
Working with community organizations and developing leadership skills are just part of the student experience in the Caldwell Seminar, a course that Fellows take in their sophomore year to work on individual development and service learning. What helps tie it all together are reflections led by a team of teaching assistants, themselves Caldwell Fellows who work with program director Janice Odom ’94 PHD during each semester’s seminar.
“That’s a critical piece,” Odom says, “this idea that you don’t just learn from experience, but you learn from the disciplined reflection on experience.” The TAs she works with, around eight per semester, are all undergraduates who have taken the seminar and are trained to help students connect their work in the community with the larger societal issues they learn about in the classroom.
. . . you don’t just learn from experience, but you learn from the disciplined reflection on experience.
– Janice Odom ’94 PHD
The TAs accompany students in their weekly on-site work with community groups, serving as a bridge between the organizations and students. The Caldwell Fellows who serve as TAs see it as an opportunity to develop their leadership skills. Often they want to continue the community partnership they were part of when they were seminar students.
That was the case for junior Brianna Diaz, an animal science major from West End, N.C., who worked as an interpreter at Urban Ministries of Wake County’s Open Door Clinic when she took the seminar. As a TA last fall, she helped seminar students when they worked in Urban Ministries’ food pantry and urban garden, all part of the organization’s mission to address health care needs in the community.
Being a TA had benefits beyond what she gained as a student in the seminar, Diaz says. She honed her listening skills, “really hearing what these students are taking from the experience,” she says, and gained some new insights as well, “just being able to see how they took a similar experience that I did, but they might have seen something different that I didn’t see.”