Summer STEPP 2021

By Nandeeta Bala ’22

In the Summer of 2020, Nandeeta collaborated with Jonathon Kahn, Henry Molina, and Felicity Martin to once again incorporate pedagogical partnership within Summer Immersion and develop the second iteration of the Summer STEPP program. This time, all faculty and admin teaching courses were partnered with student interns. There were a total of 11 pairs. Nandeeta created a thorough resource guide (including templates for the first email to the faculty partner and agendas for three student-faculty meetings) and an orientation for student interns, which Henry and Felicity collaboratively edited. Nandeeta, Henry, Felicity, and Kiah Matherson, a student partner from Spring 2021, co-facilitated the orientation, where they shared their experiences and tips and answered questions.

This time, upon Henry’s suggestion, students were partnered for courses that they had content experience or interest in. Feedback from faculty and student partners was overwhelmingly positive. Students really enjoyed the opportunity to develop a student-faculty relationship and faculty appreciated the student intern support. Student interns co-facilitated discussions, provided feedback on syllabi and course materials, brainstormed ideas for the class, and took detailed notes to share with their faculty partner. Given the short duration of the program and experimental model of Summer STEPP, it was important for faculty and their student partners to be flexible and take a more hands-on approach. Overall, the challenges students faced mirrored the ones from last semester, given the short time frame of Summer Immersion. However, they were more informed of potential challenges and this was less of a setback.

What did you enjoy from your Summer STEPP experience?


I loved talking pedagogy with a professor! Getting to know a professor, their style, their viewpoint and how it affects how they see other things…and then also learning about their interests with them. Those things were massive highlights
I enjoyed learning more about the behind the scenes of professors planning for classes. I also enjoyed being able to work alongside a professor and creating a stronger relationship with them.
I enjoyed that this was an easy way to get touch with students in immersions. Giving them a small introduction of what a certain subject might be like at Vassar. The faculty/professors that choose to be apart of the program also are great to talk to and have 1 on 1 chats with.
I enjoyed interacting with incoming first years and working with professors. I liked giving advice and helping to transition incoming freshmen into Vassar. I loved working with the interns and the rest of the STEPP team, they were all so pleasant and dedicated to what they were doing. And I loved the courses because they were a great way to see what classes I would like to take in full during the academic year.
Was there anything that you didn’t like?
It did feel…inconsequential. The class periods were very short, almost too short to really get a sense of how these 2 classes reflect a teacher’s actually way of teaching
It felt a bit disorganized, which is also partly my fault. I think it would be helpful if the professors get more information about SI beforehand and how to interact with student interns.
At least during summer immersions, the program is a bit too short to be able to make big modifications to what the professor is teaching. There are also always some students that are not as into the subject as others, which leads to some awkwardness when it comes to student participation.
I do not have any complaints, I honestly loved everything.
Any suggestions of how to improve the program? Would you recommend that future Immersion Interns partner with faculty?
I’m not sure…maybe if professors taught a second 2 day class to see the progression between the two classes and see the professor change the curriculum
I would 100% recommend future Immersion Interns partnering with faculty! It was my favorite part!
Overall, I do still think it’s worth having interns partner with faculty. However, maybe make the professors more aware of what the interns are assigned to do or the intern’s role.
I think the program could be longer and the courses could have more sessions so the professors can cover more. The Intern partnership should be continued. I wish this would have been longer so the interns could have hosted more sessions and have a student Q&A.

For future iterations of Summer STEPP, faculty partners can also participate in an orientation to be better informed of how to partner with students. Perhaps student-faculty partners, in addition to the course, can co-design informal sessions or discussions for first-years. Overall, students shared that this experience makes them more comfortable interacting with faculty. Six of the student interns will be participating in STEPP Fall 2021!