College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Featured Alum: Austin Holland
Austin Holland, a department alum who graduated with his PhD in Geography from the University of Iowa in 2022, was recently featured by the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology talking about the Graduate Teaching Fellows program. Today, Dr. Holland is a tenure-track assistant professor at University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point and says that the Graduate Teaching Fellows program helped him to hone his skills as a teacher and prepare him for the job market.
The full article and interview between Austin Holland and the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technolgy is embedded below:
Fellowship Is a ‘Unique Way to Engage in Teaching’
When Austin Holland received an email about the Graduate Teaching Fellows program, he was immediately interested. The program aligned with his career goals and seemed like a unique way to engage in conversations about teaching.
Today, he is a tenure-track assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and says the fellowship helped him improve his teaching and prepare for the job market.
Tell us about your current position.
I’m an assistant professor in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management Program within the College of Natural Resources. I’m a split appointment. I teach, but I’m also an extension specialist within the Center for Land Use Education.
I’m teaching a 300-level course called Ecological Basis for Planning and Design. Students practice concepts to understand and evaluate natural resource issues, then they devise strategic conservation solutions to mitigate them. I’m also teaching a capstone class in which students work with a community partner to apply their skills to a real-world project.
My work with the Center for Land Use Education entails public outreach and applied research on natural resources, land use issues, and policies and programs in the state. I am currently working to support existing extension programs and develop new programs within my area of expertise. We’re starting a project to understand how climate change impacts winter recreation in Wisconsin.
How have you leveraged your experience in the fellowship?
The fellowship provided a lot of experiences that I leaned on while on the job market. For instance, I referred to materials I created for the fellowship to demonstrate writing more informally about pedagogical topics. With the workshop, I could show experience designing a different presentation style for a varied audience. These experiences helped facilitate conversations during interviews and showed that I care about teaching.
The process of applying for the fellowship was also helpful because I had to think about my teaching and concisely articulate how I felt about it. The interview for the fellowship felt similar to some of my first-round interviews, so I felt more comfortable in that process.
What did you enjoy most about being a fellow?
I liked having designated time to think about pedagogical issues and learn about teaching. But my favorite thing was having conversations with my cohort and Katherine Beydler, who coordinates the program. We were all from different disciplines, so it was fun to hear their perspectives on the topics and learn from their workshops. Despite being from different programs on campus, there were similarities in aspects of teaching that we were interested in improving.
Another thing that comes to mind is delving into the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, or SoTL. I learned that if you’re experiencing an issue in a class you teach, you can review a wealth of literature from people who study these concerns, and that knowledge is something I rely on in my current position.
What was the most beneficial aspect of developing a pedagogical workshop?
I found the process of designing a workshop to be an enjoyable experience. It was interesting and challenging to review a topic that wasn’t related to my research and deliver content in a way I’d never done before. It helped me think more deeply about sharing information and pushed me to think about how I communicate. I don’t know if I would have had an experience like that without the program.
What is one thing you learned as a graduate teaching fellow that stuck with you?
We spoke frequently about developing creative options to assess students’ progress, using different teaching practices, and designing activities around your course’s learning goals. Those conversations stuck with me, and I refer to them as I’m designing courses or making adjustments throughout the semester.
What advice would you give to individuals who might be considering applying?
I feel like there’s no downside to applying. It’s a great opportunity to learn and improve your teaching, which is helpful for everyone, and it’s a paid experience. It was just such a positive experience, and I had a great time with this program. It's something that if anyone has the opportunity to participate in it, they should try.