TAs are people professors educators, too. Sophomore Scrutineers Clava Brodsky and Raph Debenedetti sat down with gold-nuggeted  PoliSci grad student David O’Connell to find out, well, why. If there’s a professor (grad students and TAs included) that you’re dying for us to ask nosey questions to, send us an email at tips@bwog.com. 

Bwog: Can you tell us a bit about TA life? How long have you been TAing? What’s the best part of the job?

David: I’ve TAed for four years and seven times for “Introduction to American Politics.” My favorite part of the job is seeing students grow—to see them developing intellectual and writing skills.

Bwog: Recently, the humanities and social sciences have taken a lot of heat at the expense of the hard sciences. Can you tell us why students should study political science (and American politics in particular)?

David: Studying American politics is useful because it helps gain understanding of how the real world works. When you’re frustrated with what Congress is or is not doing, we offer helpful understanding about the exercise of power. Furthermore, you’ll learn how to write in a clear and efficient manner.

Bwog:  Any advice for students or for TAs?

David: For students—take a reasonable number of classes so that you can actually focus on the material and learn from it. Try not to engage in a competitive stress-game. Decide to enjoy your time here- Columbia is a special place and you only get to experience it once. For TAs—be a professional, look presentable and take the job seriously! Go above minimal expectations—have review session and extra office hours before the exam. And don’t even view your TA responsibilities as a burden or as a distraction—every TA is lucky to have this incredible opportunity.

Bwog: Any great college memories?

David: I’d say that my favorite college memory comes from the spring of my last year at Penn.  A good friend and I cut our econ classes for the day and went to the Phillies home opener instead.  It was a beautiful day, uncommonly warm for April, and an exciting game.  I had not one, but two Geno’s cheesesteaks.  I was well aware that life was going to be changing for us pretty soon so I appreciated the experience even more because of that.

Bwog: Secret talents?

David: As a child, I could do a pretty good Cher imitation, but I’m really not sure why.

David O’Connell via columbia.edu