PANEL & ROUNDTABLE: Supporting GTAs as They Teach Towards the Future (40 mins)


  • Elizabeth Schierbeek George Mason University
  • Garrett Fojtik George Mason University
  • Sharrell Hassell George Mason University
  • Margaret Zeddies George Mason University
  • Eric Ross George Mason University
  • Shauna Rigaud George Mason University
  • Aoi Yamanaka George Mason University
  • Graziella McCarron George Mason University
  • Lisa Lister George Mason University



GTAs are an important part of the university teaching team, however, they often encounter a number of challenges during their time in this position, such as balancing the dual role of student and professor and navigating and advocating for themselves within the academy. Likewise, faculty advisors are faced with challenges that prevent them from providing a fully meaningful learning experience for these students. Our panel of GMU GTAs and faculty advisors will discuss our own experiences navigating these challenges and provide strategies to move beyond these obstacles. For GTAs, this includes tips on managing school and job responsibilities, self-advocacy and conflict resolution, and navigating the university hierarchy. We’ll discuss wellbeing, burnout, and issues faced by multicultural/international student GTAs. We’ll share opportunities for professional development and review the impact of the SIS GTA professional development project from Spring 2020. Finally, we’ll cover career opportunities and how to transition into the role of faculty. For faculty advisors, discussion will center around the importance of faculty mentorship for the professional and personal growth of students working as GTAs, including views from the GTA perspective. Additionally, we will provide tips on how to create a meaningful GTA experience, such as how to incorporate teaching pedagogy into their training, provide professional development opportunities, and advocate for them within the university. Our session is grounded in the lived experiences of GMU GTAs and their faculty advisors. GTAs occupy an ambiguous position of teacher, researcher, and student, with considerable challenges emerging as a result of their conflicting responsibilities (Muzaka, 2009). Even though the graduate experience can be considered the first stage of the academic career, graduate students report a lack of advising/mentorship and professional development (Austin, 2002; Jahanbani et al., 2018). During their time as GTAs, it is important for students to be given exposure to information about the pedagogy of teaching and learning (Owen, 2011), however, faculty mentors may find it difficult to provide GTAs with professional development opportunities due to their own teaching loads and research responsibilities. Nevertheless, while it is important for faculty advisors to mentor and advocate on behalf of students, it is also important for them to help students develop a sense of agency and responsibility for their own education (Owen, 2011). Our session will open with a panel on the above-mentioned challenges/strategies for GTAs and their faculty advisors. Following the panel, we will open the floor to questions and input from the audience, including challenges other attendees have faced, strategies they have used to find success as GTAs/GTA advisors, and how these strategies can be implemented on a department/university-wide level. Participants will be able to identify the challenges faced by GTAs and understand the complexities of mentoring these future faculty members. GTAs will be able to articulate strategies for navigating the unique role of student and professor. Faculty advisors will be able to identify ways to create a meaningful learning experience for their GTAs, as well as ways to advocate for them within the university.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Schierbeek, George Mason University

Elizabeth Schierbeek is currently working on her capstone, a thesis involving extensive fieldwork with the Maijuna community in rural Peru titled “Community Position Statements as Tools for Biocultural Conservation and Social Change: An Environmental Justice Case Study from the Peruvian Amazon.”  

With a strong foundation from her undergraduate degree (BA, Integrative Studies, George Mason University, 2017), Elizabeth extended her interest in social justice to environmental justice in the Peruvian Amazon. Interdisciplinary Studies’ Individualized Studies concentration, the “design it yourself” master’s degree, provided Elizabeth with flexibility and support to explore the intersections between indigenous rights, biocultural diversity, and environmental science. 

Garrett Fojtik, George Mason University

Garrett is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) program concentrating in Social Justice and Human Rights. He is also completing a Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies. His research and teaching interests center on social and environmental justice, gender and sexuality studies, personal and social transformation, and critiques of corporate well-being initiatives. He currently serves as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Academic Advisor for the School of Integrative Studies.

Sharrell Hassell, George Mason University

Sharrell Hassell-Goodman currently serves as a Ph. D. student in the Education Program with a specialization in Higher Education and a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of Integrative Studies. Prior to coming to George Mason University, she served as the immediate past Director of Sorority and Fraternity Life within the Office of Student Life at The Ohio State University.  Sharrell is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio earning a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, a master's of education degree in Educational Leadership and Curriculum Development and a master's degree in College Student Personnel.  She has served as a first year advisor and hall director at Miami University and has served as a teacher for elementary and middle school students in inner city charter schools in Dayton and Cincinnati Ohio. Sharrell has served as a course instructor for Educational Leadership: EDL 100 Career Development for the College Student, EDL 301 Student Development in Residence Halls, ESHESA 2572 National Pan-Hellenic Leadership Class, Fraternal Leaders, and Chapter Presidents leadership courses. 

Margaret Zeddies, George Mason University

Margaret Zeddies is a Sociology PhD Student at George Mason University. Her research interests center on humanitarian and international development work with children and young adults. In recent work, she analyzed the emotional debt of voluntourism work, and the social construction of childhood within non-governmental organizations and the Millennium Development Goals.   

Before starting the PhD program at Mason, Margaret worked with global nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area. Her past work in this area includes working on international child labor and education projects, and fundraising and advocacy for refugees.

Prior to moving to Northern Virginia, Margaret taught sociology, ESL, and academic preparedness at the college and high school level in Michigan and South Korea.

Eric Ross, George Mason University

Eric W. Ross is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at George Mason University. He holds a B.A. in English from Carthage College and an M.A. in American Studies from the University of South Florida.

His dissertation, titled "Remembering Democracy", looks at the ways that several newly opened history and culture museums in the United States and Canada navigate the spaces between history/memory and past/present to open up new possibilities for politics.

He currently serves as a Graduate Lecturer for the Cultural Studies Department and the School of Integrative Studies.

Shauna Rigaud, George Mason University

Beginning her career in youth work as a young person herself, Shauna has a deep passion for supporting and empowering youth and urban communities. She holds a BA in African-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a MA in Gender/Cultural Studies and MS in Communication Management from Simmons College. Her interests include Black History with a focus on Caribbean American experiences, Black feminism, youth development and community organizing. She is a current doctoral student in the Cultural Studies program.

Shauna is one of the founders of and current Communications Chair for Mason's Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). 

Aoi Yamanaka, George Mason University

Dr. Aoi Yamanaka is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Academic Services in the School of Integrative Studies, where she teaches courses on social justice and global leadership. She also serves as an academic advisor, and her advising focuses on student affairs, student development, and student engagements. In addition to her teaching and academic advising experiences, Dr. Yamanaka has experiences in international education in the western Michigan and northern Virginia areas. Dr. Yamanaka’s current scholarship focuses on social justice issues in higher education, cultural leadership, and civic engagement in a diverse environment.

Graziella McCarron, George Mason University

****TEA 2018 Winner****

Dr. McCarron teaches in the Leadership Studies program at the School of Integrative Studies focusing on courses in ethics and leadership and leading change. Her professional background integrates experience in corporate practice with higher education administration and student engagement. A significant focus of Dr. McCarron’s higher education practice included improving access and experience for adult and first-generation learners. In addition to serving as faculty at George Mason University, Dr. McCarron consults on issues of organizational practice, assessment, curriculum, and effective higher education program design. 

Lisa Lister, George Mason University

****TEA - Gen Ed 2012 Winner****

Lisa Lister won a University Teaching Excellence Award with special acknowledgment for her contributions to General Education at Mason in 2012. Since then, she’s served as a Faculty Fellow for CTFE and as a member of the Provost’s Active Learning Community. As the Associate Director of Composition, she administers Mason’s  English 101 courses, supports all 101 faculty, and runs the professional development program for new teaching TAs. Her research focus is professional development for teachers and the scholarship of teaching and learning.





MONDAY 1:00pm-1:40pm