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More options. More opportunities.

Jeremy Hoffman isn’t sure where his career is going. But one thing is sure. He has many options.

Next spring he is completing his Ph.D. in Geological and Earth Sciences/Geosciences as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Oregon State University. And that’s just part of his impressive educational track record.

Because he receives NSF funding, Jeremy is not eligible to work as a graduate teaching assistant. But, he still wants teaching credentials on his résumé.

“I really wanted to have at least an elementary understanding about how people learn, and how to structure a course, because I know that will be expected of me no matter where I end up,” he said.

Jeremy enrolled in Oregon State’s Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) program. The 18-credit program equipped him with cognitive learning theories that assist in teaching adult learners in a variety of higher education settings.

GCCUT has been a very successful program on-campus, and beginning this winter it will be delivered completely online by Oregon State Ecampus – a national leader in distance education.

The courses are designed to meet learners at whatever level they are at and help them further develop their teaching skills. Jeremy found the course load very manageable; with five courses required to finish the certificate, it’s possible to complete the program in a year.

“The GCCUT structure is linear and each course builds on what you previously learned,” he said. “It can be a little hectic to balance with research, but that’s what grad school is about.”

Oregon State PhD student - Jeremy Hoffman

Opening new doors

Besides teaching in a higher education environment, Jeremy sees how college and university teaching skills will help him more effectively communicate important science findings to a non-scientific community. “I have begun to use my skills to clearly explain complex scientific ideas to the public,” he said. “We need to bridge the gap between lawmakers, the public and earth scientists if we are going to make progress toward vital environmental legislation.”

After completing the GCCUT course Communicating Ocean Science to Informal Audiences, Jeremy applied for and was awarded a Science Communication Fellowship through the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

Teaching improves research

  • Creating testable hypotheses
  • Creating high-quality experimental designs
  • Communicating research findings

A study of 95 early-career graduate students found that the GTA/GRA group demonstrated significantly greater improvement in their abilities to generate testable hypotheses and design valid experiments.

He finds the idea of working at a museum or informal science learning center appealing. “Whether you teach at the university level or not, just knowing how people learn in general is good in all situations,” he said.

Teaching informs research

Many graduate students who are focusing on research don’t think they need instructional experience, but studies show that graduate assistants can become better researchers and write better grant proposals through teaching.

“GCCUT opened my eyes to many avenues that you can take the work you’re doing in graduate research and turn it into something useful,” Jeremy said.

Endless possibilities

Jeremy was just nominated for the William Mitchell College of Law’s Expert Witness Training Academy, adding yet another future opportunity. But wherever Jeremy’s professional career takes him, the skills he’s acquired through OSU’s Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching program will be an invaluable part of his toolkit.