February 13, 2024

Insights from CAFE’s 2024 Summer Course Redesign Institute and BLAIS Tandem Program at the Claremont Colleges

Written by Angel Reyes, DrPH Candidate in Public Health. School of Community & Global Health (SCGH). Claremont Graduate University.

Teaching in a university seems like the epitome for many doctoral students, but the road to this pinnacle is often shrouded in mystery. Often, we as students may be told that timing matters or to travel across the country for an opportunity to interview, but once we enter the world of academia, the veil lifts revealing new challenges. I believe that the Blais Tandem experience works to provide a more inclusive pathway for doctoral students to enter academia on all levels by incorporating them into the life of a professor. I also believe that this builds upon CAFE’s College Teaching Certificate at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) by supplementing their theoretical knowledge with more real-world experience. Lastly, it offers an opportunity to boost their Curriculum Vitae with teaching experience for an adjunct faculty position, effectively starting their career on a good footing.

Seeing This Life as a Reality

Having the opportunity to meet faculty members outside of CGU gives students a more diverse perspective of academic life, as not every professor needs to live by the “Publish or Perish” motto of competitive academic institutions. This diversity represents a new perspective on opening potential careers; possibly encouraging more students to enter doctoral programs to work as professors of practice. Additionally, this exposure deepens the understanding of the expectations across institutions as Claremont Colleges encompass multiple universities. Having the unique opportunity to leverage the diversity of Claremont Colleges is a special reason why the Blais Tandem experience is impactful.

Incorporating A Support Network

By pairing CGU students with professors to develop a course or improve it, CGU students benefit from years of experience from other academic institutions or from the corporate world. My experience being paired with Asha Srikantiah, a Clinical Professor of Engineering at Harvey Mudd College and Senior Director of Strategy at the Hive, was understanding how the corporate world infuses into academic coursework. I believe the greatest takeaway was understanding that we can always breathe life into coursework and make it purposeful exercises for the world of industry. Additionally, the mentorship does not stop at course creation because CGU students depart from the program with a lifelong mentor that roots for their success. Overall, CGU students receive a deeper understanding of inclusive teaching pedagogy by applying it in an interdisciplinary fashion, forcing them to rely upon the application of theories.

Community Success

The last major benefit of the Blais Tandem experience is that CGU students come together to learn each other’s stories, fostering a greater community across the CGU departments. From my experience as a CGU student, this community fosters learning and success through a communal approach of friendship. Additionally, by facilitating this communal approach, CGU continues to develop the next generation of leaders in either academia or industry, deepening the hallmark sign of a CGU Degree; Transdisciplinary innovation. As we graduate and traverse the country in search of jobs, I know that one day I will be able to recall this experience whenever I reach out to my future colleagues.

My Big Takeaways

I got to meet and work with professors from across the Claremont Colleges and other colleagues from different academic departments at CGU that I would never have met otherwise. I learned from an industry expert in product design, which deepened my understanding of applying theory while broadening my perspective of real-world problems. If I could describe the Blais Tandem experience, it would be in these ways:

  • The Course Redesign Institute and Blais Tandem experience exemplify transdisciplinary innovation by immersing students in diverse academic backgrounds, fostering growth beyond their domain-specific expertise.
  • The Course Redesign Institute and Blais Tandem experience embody CGU’s mission statement, of being research-based and practice driven. Throughout the process, course creation occurs concurrently with theoretical content discussions, emphasizing the seamless integration of theory into practice from inception to completion.
  • The Course Redesign Institute and Blais Tandem program uniquely fosters interdisciplinary connections across the Claremont Colleges, transcending departmental boundaries and fostering professional development and peer camaraderie among graduate students.
  • The Course Redesign Institute and Blais Tandem experience offer graduate students the opportunity to engage in course design well before their first faculty appointment, demystifying the teaching process and providing invaluable early exposure.

The overall experience was truly unique and owed its success to the comprehensive collaboration within the Claremont Colleges consortium, bolstered by the expertise and guidance from the Center for Academic & Faculty Excellence (CAFE). Without the collective diversity offered by the consortium and the inclusive excellence fostered by CAFE, such an enriching experience would not have been possible elsewhere.

image of Angel Reyes with black background

Angel Reyes is currently a third-year doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University’s School of Community and Global Health. Outside of school, Angel contributes his time and energy towards non-profits like Young and Healthy that center their efforts around providing comprehensive services for children and families living in poverty. Angel earned both his MPH in healthcare administration and policy and his B.A. in kinesiology from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.

Follow along on Angel’s journey on Instagram: Subthesis