The positions of both a student and an instructor are both important aspects of higher education, but when it comes down to someone who is both, Alicia Hatcher speaks on what it’s like in terms of academics, future opportunities, and relationships.
Alicia Hatcher, a graduate student pursuing a PhD in the Rhetoric, Writing and Professional Communication program within East Carolina University’s English Department is in her fourth and final year of the program.
Hatcher is an instructor within ECU’s English Department and carries out several responsibilities that would normally be found among a professor's day-to-day schedule. She structures the course, creates the syllabus, responds to emails and incorporates things she deems essential to a student’s education.
“I am the instructor for the course, I am the instructor of record.” Hatcher said. “I create the syllabus, and the syllabus is relatively standard but I add you know, the things that I feel are an essential part of our learning environment.”
Before Hatcher chose to attend graduate school, she was teaching full time at a community college. She said by being an instructor along with her graduate school program, she is able to receive financial assistance with her tuition and health insurance.
Hatcher said the financial assistance was pivotal in her decision to attend graduate school. She said when she found out ECU had a program that would help cover tuition and health insurance, she realized this might be a way to receive her desired degree without acquiring more debt.
“The fact that grad (graduate) school was going to cover my tuition and my health insurance, those were pivotal in me making the decision to actually do this,” Hatcher said. “I’ve wanted to do it, but I just didn’t want to incur any additional financial costs in order to get to do it.”
Hatcher completed the required coursework for her program within the first two years, though she said the act of being both a student and an instructor is challenging and overwhelming, especially in the beginning.
However, Hatcher said the other professors within the English Department understand the challenges and overwhelming feelings that come with the program and work to help everyone succeed.
Hatcher’s goal is to be able to use this degree as a stepping stone for her career. Although Hatcher is not new to teaching, her direction is to engage in scholarship, immerse as a scholar and be able to tie those together in her future teaching.
“That’s it for me is to be able to tie all of those parts of me together and then find the right university or the right school where they value both your teaching and you as a scholar,” Hatcher said.
When she reflects on her goals, Hatcher believes her position as an instructor plays an important beneficial role in her career. She said when she looks at the work she produces and the feedback she receives, she sees how these experiences shape and prepare her for the next step.
COVID-19 has brought many changes to campus life and the way most courses are originally delivered. Hatcher said because student instructors always face a balance between their teaching and other class requirements, it is important to figure out how to make sure the students have everything they need.
“We’re all navigating these very challenging waters, these new waters the best way we can,” Hatcher said. “It absolutely gives us these additional layers of strength, of perservernce.”
By being an instructor as well as a student, Hatcher said it allows her to relate to her students at a student and coursework level. She said this is something she appreciates most is to be able to have that student to coursework relationship with her students.
Hatcher said her position is an essential part of who she aspires to be as a scholar and if she didn’t have the people here within her program she doesn’t think it could happen.
“My favorite thing about teaching is the fact that, you know, I’m able to relate to my students and I think that they can relate to me,” Hatcher said. “I think that’s a vital part of any kind of student-teacher relationship.”