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Ghanashyam Sharma

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serviceGraduate Research Assistant to the Dean of Graduate School (School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies), University of Louisville, 2009-2011
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In this graduate assistantship position, where I worked when it was first established, I helped the Dean, Dr. Beth Boehm, develop and implement a new initiative called the PLAN that was designed to provide graduate students a range of professional development opportunities and increase graduate student retention and success. The PLAN initiative was born out of the various events and efforts that the Dean and her office made in the first year; it formally started in the fall of 2010. Because I was on board during the first year of the program's establishment, I got the unique opportunities to work--and work hard--for developing new programs and resources, promoting events and the initiative in general, developing a website and other resources, and in general helping develop new ideas and implementing them.
  • Conducted research, helped develop programs, and assisted with the establishment of the PLAN initiative for graduate students' professional development.
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  • The PLAN initiative evolved from a variety of professional development workshops for graduate students that the Dean of Graduate School, Dr. Beth Boehm, started organizing or sponsoring when she was appointed to the position. In the fall of 2009, Dr. Boehm created a new GA position and appointed me to assist her to develop or find and offer more professional development opportunities for graduate students. The principles behind the PLAN initiatives evolved from Dr. Boehm's weekly conversations with her PLAN team on issues of graduate student attrition rates, the increasing challenges in the academic job market, and the struggles that graduate students face when they come in and go out of graduate school, often into the non-academic professions. Some of those principles include:

    1. Graduate students do not become more successful by simply increasing attention, time, and effort to academic work but by balancing different areas of development including academic, professional, personal, and social;

    2. Universities generally have a lot of resources and opportunities that can help graduate students achieve well-rounded professional development, but those resources are scattered, and therefore "pooling" and promoting those existing opportunities resources will achieve the same or even better goals than starting new and potentially expensive programs from scratch;

    3. Rather than relying on "expert" presenters alone, a professional development program can and must utilize graduate students' own expertise, experience, and the very need to professional grow through sharing those resources;

    4. A professional development program in today's social/networked world should develop and provide resources out of the "footprints" of the programs and activities that happen in traditional settings.

    5. Such a program must structurally integrate research and promotion within itself. With a newly added Program Manager and increasing collaboration and buy in from faculty, administrators, and students across the disciplines, the PLAN initiative at UofL has developed into one of the most effective professional development programs that I know about from my study of similar programs in the last two years. I am proud to have contributed the best that I could in the establishment of the program.

  • Conducted research, developed content, and assisted with the design and maintenance of the PLAN initiative website.
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  • Based on the idea that a professional development program must use its "footprints" as resources that students can take advantage of through the web, I started--at the very beginning of the PLAN initiative--to develop content and helped design and maintain a website. The site not only allowed students to look up events in the program calendar and to register online, it also provided useful resources to students at all stages of their academic and professional development. Utilizing the skills that I have acquired over the years in the areas of web design, media creation, and the use of social networking online for professional conversation, I helped the webmaster at the Graduate School to gradually improve the site's navigation and content organization. Towards the end of my time in the Graduate School, I developed and integrated a number of PLAN promotional videos on the website.
  • Gathered and documented program data, analyzed and presented results, produced and documented annual project reports.
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  • With the purpose of assessing the effectiveness of the program, further planning and improving it, and using the annual data from its tremendous success for further promoting the initiative, I produced and provided the Dean with data analysis and other relevant resources. The annual report consisted of number of participants and participation count, breakdown by units and departments, interview clips from student, faculty, and workshop presenters, and participant feedback. The visually organized data was highly effective for the Dean to inform and promote the program among faculty members, university officials, and students.
  • Developed, organized and led the presentation of three PLAN workshops along with other students from different disciplines:
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  • (1) Academic Transition Workshop for New International Graduate Students (Sept. 2009, Sept. 2010, Sept. 2011): Along with a panel of graduate students, both international and local, from different disciplines, I first developed and presented this workshop in September 2009; the event has continued to take place every fall. The Dean and several other faculty members, also from different disciplines, have assisted us with the workshop. In this 2-3 hour event, the student panel starts the discussion by pointing out some of the ideas and practices that may distinguish the academic culture of US universities; this conversation leads to informal discussions among participants, new international graduate students who have been in the US university for at least a month and are ready share their experiences--challenges, confusions, questions; most importantly, the workshop then highlights the need and possibilities for international scholars to adapt past academic and professional knowledge and expertise towards achieving success here in the US.

    (2) Technology for Effective Teaching, a workshop for GTAs, Feb. 2010, Jan. 2011: Also presented by a multi-disciplinary panel of students that I form and lead, this workshop demonstrated different emerging and established technologies that GTAs can use for enhancing the effectiveness of their teaching in the classroom. The theoretical framework of this workshop is that teachers need to select and adapt academic technologies based on their course objectives and pedagogical strategies, and in order to enhance those objectives and strategies. Held in a podium equipped with personal computers, the participants got the opportunity to do hands on practice of the specific technologies covered by the presenters.

    (3) Understanding and Preventing/Avoiding Plagiarism (Jan. 2011): I have presented this workshop once, along with Nancy Bou Ayash, a colleague in the English department. Nancy and I encouraged the participants to look at plagiarism as a cultural, pedagogical, ethical, and academic issue, allowing them to discuss specific problematic situations and share their ideas and experiences as both students and teachers. We also showed the participants, who were mostly GTAs, a number of pedagogical strategies for preventing both intentional and unintentional plagiarism among their students, and for avoiding plagiarism as students themselves.

  • Provided a range of other kinds of support to the PLAN initiative:
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  • > Helped with the organization of events, including introducing presenters, ensuring the comfort of the participants, collecting feedback and sign in information, and so on

    > Conducted or assisted with focus groups of international students and the general student community

    > Developed or assisted the PLAN team with creating promotional materials like the self-help PLAN folder and informational flyers.

    > Recorded events and developed promotional videos for the initiative and specific events, and finally,

    > Trained and supported the new Graduate Assistant who took over my position after two years of my service

Assistant Director of Composition Program, English Department, University of Louisville, 2009-10
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This Assistant Director position is designated as Writing Consultant for the College of Business. As a consultant at the CoB, I got the unique opportunity for working mainly with faculty members in a different discipline. Whereas faculty members used to occasionally visit the Writing Center when I was a consultant there, the kind of one on one consultation that I could provide to faculty members, most of whom needed support with their research and publication, helped understand better the kinds of practices, discourses, and--through classroom presentations for some of the faculty members--pedagogies of writing in a different academic discipline. This experience eventually led to my interest in writing in the discipline (WID) as a dissertation topic.
  • Provided writing consultation to students and faculty members
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  • Faculty members in the Business School asked for what I first thought was an unusual kind of support from a writing consultant: copy editing. But I learned and indeed encouraged those writers to think about editing from a broader rhetorical perspective. The follow conversations that many of the faculty members had with me about the editorial comments that I provided them brought to light some significant difference between how I, as someone trained in the Writing Center, thought about writing and consulting and the business faculty did.

    With the students, I could take the same approach as I did at the Writing Center. However, because the hours that I tried to allocate for consulting with students were considerably under-utilized, I actively promoted the service and also started providing students the option of consulting with me on Skype later in the evening. Not only individual students but also groups that were working on class projects made appointments for Skype conferences during the evening hours.
    I also increased the efficiency of email consultations by encouraging students to ask me follow up questions on the phone by providing my office phone number and hours. In short, working in a kind of one-person Writing Center was a unique and inspiring experience.
  • Promoted and presented writing skill workshops for students in the classroom as requested by faculty members
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  • The collaborative work that I did with faculty members involved creating writing workshops and exercises that would help their students with writing assignments. Customizing presentations to fit the actual need of the students made the workshops useful, consequently popularizing my service among the students who had been underutilizing the service. Some of the topics of these workshops were: "critical thinking as a means of organizing writing well," "integrating source information within your own frame of ideas," and "avoiding plagiarism by learning standard conventions of citation and documentation."
  • Collaborated with faculty members for integrating/enhancing writing-intensive assignments in their courses
  • Added group consultation at flexible hours using Skype conferencing and synchronously editable web documents
  • Developed and provided resources for student writers on the web
  • Digitized existing resources and documented service and materials used as resource for future assistant directors working in this position

Assistant Director of University Writing Center, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, Aug. 2007- 2008
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In this position, I assisted the Director, Dr. Mary Rosner, in a variety of ways, including those in the bullet points below. While I was ready to help in any area of Writing Center services, I specialized in Virtual Writing Center services, development of resource on and offline, and building a new website that was capable of allowing clients to make their own appointments online.
  • Developed resources for writers and also made them available on the WC website
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  • WC makes handouts, reference books, and other helpful resources for its clients. I updated existing materials and added a number of new handouts to the collection, including handouts on effective organization, editing, MLA and APA citation/documentation of sources, formatting, and use of correct articles for ESL writers. With the development of a new CMS based website, such resources were also made available on the site for writers to access via the web.
  • Consulted in and helped further develop the Virtual Writing Center
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  • One of my major responsibilities as WC AD was to consult with clients on the Virtual Writing Center section. I and other colleagues working on the VWC established the White Board function within TutorTrac in order to provide synchronous consulting online. In order to help future VWC administrators and consultants, I added new chapters on the use of synchronous consultation to the Virtual Writing Center administrators’ manual; I also updated and expanded the VWC manual as a whole.
  • Gave classroom presentations for students and workshops for faculty and staff:
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  • The WC provided two kinds of workshops for writers, classroom presentations to help students improve their writing and WC workshops that faculty and staff could attend. Among the classroom workshops that I did as demanded by instructors from across campus were: APA basics, APA style and avoiding unintentional plagiarism, IEEE style and preventing plagiarism, MLA basics, thesis and organization. I also co-presented a few writing workshops for faculty and staff, including editing for effective sentences and unblocking the writer's block.
  • Created and maintained the Writing Center website
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  • I built a new website for the Writing Center in order to fulfill my third language requirement as a doctoral student in the English Department, but the reason why I chose to "kill two birds with one stone" was that at the time the Writing Center needed to move from its old Coldfusion based website to a site based on the newly mandated CMS, Plone. To the new site that I built--starting from scratch, applying for a domain name with the university's web service, building the site and submitting for approval by the ADA compliance office (for which I did an ADA compliance certification training), and transferring content and redesigning the site's navigation--I integrated the TutorTrac online appointment and service tracking system that was made available to the WC by the REACH program. This program allowed WC clients to make their own appointments--for on site, email, and synchronous chat appointments--from the website. In order to help future VWC administrators and consultants, I added a chapter on how to handle the settings of TutorTrac to the VWC administrator's manual.
  • Other services/activities as WC assistant director:
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  • Some other works that I was involved in as WC AD include: mentoring and participating in the training of new consultants, taking part in meetings and discussions for the overall improvement of WC services, (voluntarily) lending my technical skills to help resolve technical problems with the computers and other WC equipment, and assisting the Director with day to day miscellaneous services.

Consultant, University Writing Center, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, Aug. 2006—Aug. 2007
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The first year of my MA, I worked as a writing consultant, mostly working one-on-one with students, staff, and faculty, helping them improve written work that they brought to the WC. I also started working for the Virtual Writing Center when that option was available for me after the first semester. And besides consulting on site and online, I started helping WC update handouts and other resources by conducting a needs and usage analysis and working on a priority basis. This work later became the basis of my work at the WC as one of its assistant directors.


Consultant and Translator, Family Health International, Kathmandu, 2005—2006 
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The FHI is an American INGO (international non-government organization), and one of its 55 international office is located in Kathmandu. Using flexible hours during weekend and during vacations at the university--I translated documents between English and Nepali in FHI's attempt to provide resources to trainers and other outreach personnel across the country in the national/local language. Besides translating documents related to healthcare, development, and human rights, I was also involved in intellectual discussions about language difference, social issues as represented by the terminology of "development," and the need for cultural sensitivity in translating texts from one language to another. Working at FHI inspired me to pursue academic and professional lives that dealt with language and communication in ways that make more meaningful and direct impact upon society than the teaching of English literature that I had been doing for about a decade then seemed to be making.

 

© Shyam Sharma, 2011