Princeton University partners with Mercer County Community College to prepare graduate students for teaching

Mercer County Community College and Princeton University have launched a community college teaching partnership that will provide mentoring and teaching experience to doctoral students at the Ivy League school.

Under the agreement, community college faculty members are mentoring four Princeton doctoral students, giving them an orientation about teaching in a community college environment. In the fall, the students will teach courses at the community college in their disciplines as adjunct instructors.

This semester, the Princeton doctoral students are spending time in the classroom with their faculty mentors, attending college events and committee meetings, and taking advantage of professional development opportunities.

David Edwards, the vice president for academic affairs at Mercer County Community College, said many courses at the college are structured as hybrids that combine in-class sessions with online activities. Other courses are taught online.

“Mercer faculty members routinely utilize either a hybrid or fully online instructional modality for their teaching. We look forward to helping our Princeton graduate students become more adept at using these teaching tools,” Edwards said.

“This will be an intellectual exchange between faculty members at Mercer who have expertise in teaching in today’s community college classrooms and doctoral candidates interested in teaching in the community college setting. MCCC students will benefit from the exchange through the expertise these doctoral students will share in the classroom on their dissertation topics,” he said.

Cole Crittenden, the deputy dean of the Princeton University Graduate School, believes the program will offer an excellent introduction into the teaching field for the university’s graduate students. “They will be mentored by master teachers at Mercer and learn more about approaches to teaching in the community college context. The program will also introduce our students to online and hybrid teaching models that are used in community colleges,” he said.

Sarah Schwarz, the associate director of Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning helped design the partnership. “I’m thrilled to see a structured program in place for Princeton graduate students to gain mentored teaching experience and expand their teaching skills in the diverse community college environment,” she said.

Graduate student Sarah Islam, who is now several weeks into the program, said the guidance of her faculty mentor, Daniel Schermond, has been extremely helpful.

“Not only do I have the opportunity to meet with Professor Schermond weekly to discuss productive teaching methods and inclusive teaching approaches, but I am also shadowing him as he attends departmental meetings and teaches courses,” Islam said. “All four of us are receiving personalized training in teaching a diverse student body in the classroom, and getting the opportunity to be trained and certified as instructors proficient in teaching online and hybrid courses. I look toward to teaching my own course next semester and I cannot think of a better way to solidly prepare myself for the next stage of my career.”

(l-r) Sitting: Princeton University doctoral students Daniel Berbecel, Merle Eisenberg, Sarah Islam and Hope Rogers. Standing: Alexandra Salas, MCCC dean for innovation, Jianping Wang, MCCC president; MCCC faculty mentors Laura Sosa, Diane Rizzo, and Daniel Schermond; Princeton University Assistant Dean Amy Pszczolkowski, MCCC Dean Robert Kleinschmidt, and MCCC vice president David Edwards. Photo courtesy of Mercer County Community College.