HIP Academy: Learning to Teach in the Big Leagues

Posted: July 8, 2021

Efren Velazquez is an assistant professor of psychological science.

I have always enjoyed watching the sport of baseball, ever since I was an adolescent. In baseball, there are different levels that professional baseball players have to go through before they can make it to the big leagues (MLB). In a way, getting a tenure-track position at a university is no different. You have to obtain a bachelor's degree (Single-A) before you get into graduate school. Afterward, you get your master's degree (Double-A), and, if you would like, a PhD (Triple-A), before jumping into a tenure-track position at a university (MLB). I went through all these phases in a period of 11 years, non-stop. In fall 2018, I accepted a tenure-track position at UNG in the Department of Psychological Science, meaning that I finally made it to the big leagues at the age of 28. This was my first job, post-graduate school, and I was both excited and nervous. Excited because I was finally going to make money after being broke for so many years, yet nervous because I would be in charge of my classes and responsible for educating students within my discipline.

Efren Velazquez

I was unsure as to whether I would be a good college professor at all at the start of my career; I am sure such concerns cross all of our minds at some point in academia. I knew that I had a lot to learn and I was determined to keep improving my teaching style. During my second year at UNG, in the middle of the pandemic, I learned about the High-Impact Educational Practices (HIP) Academy. The academy is designed to help faculty create a project where students engage in a High-Impact Practice (Undergraduate Research, Service-Learning, Work-Based Learning, or Capstone Project). As an undergraduate student, I enrolled in a Health Psychology course that required students to engage in a service-learning project throughout the semester. Having the desire to implement a service-learning project in some of my courses, I knew that the HIP Academy would be a good fit for me.

Under the guidance of Dr. Carly Redding and Dr. Sarah Young, participating faculty members were able to create a service-learning project that could be implemented in one of their courses. In my specific case, I created a service-learning project that focuses on having my Cross-Cultural Psychology students engage with a local community organization that assists underrepresented populations. The project I designed focuses on having the students engage with an organization for a total of 20 hours in an 8-week timespan. They submit weekly diaries of their activities, and submit both a final report and an online oral presentation by the last week of the semester. Having participated in a service-learning project assisted me in creating the project. However, I also have to give credit to both Dr. Redding and Dr. Young for the advice and suggestions they provided during my participation in the academy. It may be difficult to implement during the next academic year given the pandemic, but I feel confident that my students will be participating in this high-impact practice in the near future.

Being a tenure-track faculty means that you are in the big leagues. I know that, like any rookie, I will make plenty of mistakes, but I want to continue my growth as a faculty member. Participating in programs like the HIP Academy is an excellent way for any faculty member to keep growing, no matter how long they have been teaching.

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