"Joy to Teach": Teaching Scholars Share Their Experiences

February 24, 2020
Orit Hilewicz

The GSAS Teaching Scholars Program, begun in 2012, is a professional and academic development initiative that allows advanced PhD students the opportunity to design and teach an undergraduate course in their area of expertise. In doing so, they sharpen their teaching skills, enhance the curriculum, and prepare for the job market. To date, more than 200 GSAS Teaching Scholars from 22 departments have participated in this program.

In this final installment of our three-part series, Teaching Scholars in the Department of Music share their experiences.

Orit Hilewicz ’17 PhD, Music Theory

Orit Hilewicz is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester.

I taught two courses as part of the Teaching Scholars program. The first course, in Summer 2015, was an undergraduate seminar on avant-garde and experimental music in New York City. We took advantage of our campus location and supplemented class meetings with outings to concerts, in which students experienced the styles of music learned in class and performed in the city’s iconic venues. Except for a music major from Indiana University, all the students in the course were advanced Columbia undergraduates from the music and other departments. 

The second course, which I taught in Fall 2016, was an undergraduate seminar on music in multimedia works. We learned analytical and critical tools for a broad array of genres such as film, sound installation, and dance. The students were advanced music majors. 

Each course was a joy to teach. Students gravitated to these electives based on their interest in the topic, which meant that each course involved working with highly invested and motivated students. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to develop as a teacher. 

The program helped me improve my teaching, explore the pedagogical implications of my research, and prepare for the job market. In addition, the success of the program relied on the invaluable support I was offered from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Music Department’s faculty and staff at every stage of preparing and teaching the course. 

I believe that my experience in the Teaching Scholars program crucially contributed to my ability to present myself as an experienced teacher when I was a job candidate. Moreover, the program allowed me to show in my portfolio how my research interests lent themselves to teaching. I was fortunate to be offered a tenure-track position in a highly regarded department immediately following the completion of my PhD. In my campus interview for the position, my two Teaching Scholars courses were an area of special interest. I did not realize it fully before the interview, but the experience of designing a syllabus from scratch and running a course based on one’s research is quite rare and sets an ABD job candidate apart from other doctoral candidates or recent graduates. In addition, I am now turning one of my teaching-scholars syllabi to a PhD seminar in the coming fall semester.

Part 1 of this series featured Marc Hannaford '19 PhD, Music Theory. Part 2 featured Paula Harper '19 PhD, Historical Musicology. More information about this program is found on the GSAS Teaching Scholars Program page