"Caz has made me a well-rounded individual...and a part of a caring campus community."
You're sitting in U.S. History: 1877 to the Present, reading passages from David Nasaw's "Children of the City," and you have a question. The instructor, with a kind smile and pleasant tone, calls on you and you begin to converse more deeply about the book that was an inspiration for the musical, Newsies. Your classmates join in and time soon slips away. The discussion was so comfortable it's as if the teacher is one of your peers. As it turns out - she is! She's senior liberal studies major Nicole Lennon, and she's taken quite a path to stand at the front of your class.
Lennon, of Hobart, New York, is the 2013-14 Cazenovia College Washburn Teaching Fellow. Established in 2001 by Professor Emerita and Vice Chair of the Cazenovia College Board of Trustees Marge Pinet, and named in honor of her parents, the Rev. Gordon H. and Mrs. Dorothy M. Washburn, the Washburn Junior Fellowship Program provides two students a year-long funded opportunity to significantly expand upon his or her chosen field. One fellow concentrates on research and the other focuses on teaching. "Nicole was chosen because she is a natural born teacher and one of the best writers I have ever taught," says Dr. John Robert Greene, Paul J. Schupf Professor of History and Humanities, and fellowship program advisor. "Her superb time management skills, coupled with the fact that she is incredibly motivated, organized and balanced, are all key attributes needed for a position of this caliber."
In the fall semester of 2013, Lennon worked closely with Dr. Greene to thoroughly study the art of teaching. For four months, she observed the craft during his U.S. History: Colonization to 1877 class, recommended all primary sources for the instruction, and taught the final 10 minutes of each class. She learned to evaluate papers, assess class participation and host regular office hours in diverse campus locations. Additionally, she used the book "McKeachie's Teaching Tips" to guide her in teaching methodology, met weekly with Dr. Greene and a master teacher of her choice (Michael Sanders, associate professor of philosophy), and submitted 12, 5-to-7-page papers over the course of the semester.
While it is unique for an undergrad to teach at the college level, Lennon was welcomed with open arms by her peers. "Nicole has incredible classroom presence; she's as good as any graduate student I've ever seen teach," says Dr. Greene. "She has gained students' support through her compassionate demeanor, overall respect for the subject matter and quest to truly provide a worthwhile experience for everyone involved."
When spring semester arrived in January 2014, Lennon was ready to complete the second half of her fellowship - this time in U.S. History: 1877 to the Present - and implement what she learned throughout the fall. It was now up to her to personally select one of four books for the syllabus and teach it in its entirety. She chose Nasaw's book and eventually arranged for him to speak with students via Skype. Her fellowship will culminate in May when she will deliver a final presentation on her teaching role. She'll construct this presentation in addition to creating her Capstone essay - an argument against the implementation of the Common Core education system.
Think all of this is tiring her out? Not even close! Lennon has assumed the Washburn teaching opportunity in addition to maintaining a 19-hour senior course load, in preparation to graduate in three short years. "I'm interested in everything, and the liberal studies program at Caz allowed me to take courses in a wide-range of fields," says Lennon. "I have been able to develop a working knowledge of many disciplines by having the flexibility to obtain a truly individualized academic experience."
While navigating through Cazenovia's myriad of comprehensive courses, Lennon made time to join the Social Science Club, work as a peer tutor for the Learning Center, serve as a contributing writer for The Quad and participate in The Great Debate. She also had a chance to practice her public speaking skills when she moderated a session in the 2013 Wheler Conference on World Affairs and the 2013 Media Studies Symposium. Growing up, she always hoped for a full college experience - and she certainly got it!
As Lennon primes for her ultimate goal, graduate school, she reflects on her busy and bountiful journey on campus. "Caz has made me a well-rounded individual by offering me a solid variety of academics and a chance to discover the true meaning of being part of a caring campus community," says Lennon. She also encourages future and current students to always try their hardest. "If you're not putting 100% of your effort into everything you do, then how will you ever know how great you can be? Even when you're stressed and overwhelmed, don't complain," she says. "Complaining doesn't get things done. Just keep going. In the end you'll be glad that you did."
It looks like Lennon is a woman of her word. Just keep going, Nicole! Just keep going.