Looking back on my three semesters at UB, I realized that I have learned the most I have ever learned about teaching in this short amount of time, and that the students at UB have given me the most valuable lessons I have ever learned about teaching because of the range of experiences they bring into the classroom and campus. They put into perspective what higher education is really all about—-to give each student the same chance at learning and to think honestly about what we truly mean by access, equity, and inclusion in higher ed. I learned a lot from teaching at a large public university like UCLA and private institutions on the west coast and on the east coast, but at UB, I saw the greatest socio-economic and ethnic diversity of any school; and with many non-traditional students—students who are in ROTC, working parents, returning adults, and younger students balancing work and family responsibilities. I can not speak here of each personal challenge or trauma, but it is because of these students, I have learned again the importance of just listening and holding space for students to share their stories. When you hear what it is that they are actually juggling to finish school, you realize that it’s not about making the student adapt to what you think college is, but that college needs to also adapt and respond to the needs of a very different student body than 20 or 30 years ago.
The first year seminar at UB has also taught me the importance of building in time and space to talk about wellness with students and helping students find resources within themselves and on and off campus as they live, work, and study independently for the first time. Much of what I use in my first year seminar comes from the experiences I had teaching in UCLA’s Freshmen Summer Program as a grad student. We spent a summer working closely with students from underrepresented backgrounds as they transitioned to college and living away from their families for the first time. I understand now, that what FSP was doing was supporting and teaching the whole student with multi-level mentoring, tutoring, advising, and counseling. (More on this topic as time permits).