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  • Writer's pictureAnthony R. Ramirez

Fall 2022 Reflection - My First Semester as an Assistant Professor

Well, I cannot believe it is finally here. My first semester as an Assistant Professor is done! As per recent tradition, I reflect on every semester and share my thoughts with you all.

Overall, I had a wonderful semester! I loved it. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, but neither is life. I learned a lot this semester and here are some of the things I learned along the way.

Learning Curves:

In order to stay in contact with my students, I create a Group Me text message rims for my classes. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, but it was probably the second time I’ve questioned whether I should continue doing this. I say this, because there have been multiple occasions where it becomes overwhelming for me. You see, I’m the type of person whenever I receive an email or a message. I try my best to respond quickly, but I learned along the way that there’s pros and cons to it. Pro: students really enjoy when a professor communicates quickly and effectively. Con: There are times that student overly message on the application and it becomes overwhelming.

I’m just being fully transparent here. So in the process of things and having conversations with multiple colleagues and friends of mine, I realize that I need to learn how to balance things out better. I need to give time and space between myself and my students in that sense. While I wanna do my best to still have good contact and communication with my students. I do need to give them time to figure things out on their own if possible. Or even have fellow students and colleagues within the classroom, help each other out and create a community in the process. Regardless, I need to figure out this balance.

Another lesson I learned in the process of things was to never conduct group assignments in an online class. While I’ve heard the stories of people having success with this, that was not the case for me and my students. A lot of students at the end of the semester even mention that to me, saying that was her least favorite part of the course to which I responded. I totally agree. It was definitely a learning experience for me.

Latinx Creative Consortium: This year, the Latinx Critical Creative Consortium was held at Texas A&M University, my alma mater. This is my first conference as a professor, and since I’ve left Texas A&M. This was a great and amazing experience, and an experience that I have never felt at the university itself. I was able to co-lead the comic books track with my friend and colleague, Samantha Ceballos. Through this track, we had a presentation, panel, discussion, and two workshops. During each of our comic centered presentations, we encouraged creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. Additionally, we described how passion leads to various opportunities. On top of all of that, we describe how there is power in storytelling. Not just in reading and analyzing stories, but telling stories. These were some conversations that were had during our presentations and workshops. Through our presentations, it was great to hear how others study and examine comics, and how people now want to use comic books within their research.

While I am proud of the work and the effort made by the organizers and I, one thing I personally wished that was different was less presentation and that way other organizers can venture out and support other presentations. I wish I could have supported others and viewed some presentations that fall into my interests. That was something I hope that can be learned from this conference.

I hope this conference continues to grow and expand as it did this year. With conferences like this, it brings members of Latinx communities from different disciplines and walks of life. It is not your typical academic conference. I have been able to network and meet some wonderful people who have become some of my closest friends. I’m grateful for this conference and the opportunity to help contribute to build this community further.

Full article here:

NCA Reflection (taken from my Facebook):

I felt honored to represent the University of Houston-Downtown, and to also represent UTEP and Texas A&M. All three universities mean so much to me and are forever a part of who I am, which I am incredibly proud of. I do not take any of that for granted at all.

I had a blast spending time with so many wonderful friends, colleagues, and overall amazing people at the convention. Words cannot explain how happy I was to see and spend time with them. My heart is so full from their love, support, and friendship.

I was inspired by so many people. My mentors continue to provide mentorship and guidance, and plenty of colleagues and friends conducted fantastic work that was just insanely inspiring! A few of these mentors and colleagues of mine, told me how much they enjoy the work I do and discussed the personal impacts it has had on them or how they enjoy that I choose projects/topics that I am passionate about. That means the world to me! Seriously, thanks for that much needed boost of confidence and motivation!

I was happy to see a new generation of Latinx/e media and popular culture scholars conducting incredible work. It was also so cool seeing others starting to experiment with their work and create more short films or new media scholarship projects. I truly believe that is the future of academic scholarship and research.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, but man, was it exhausting. On a positive note, I have plenty of goals I want to now aim for including continuing to do research on Latinx/e popular culture.

My Courses:

This semester, I taught three classes. It was definitely an interesting experience preparing for all three courses, but I learned so much in the process of things. Out of the three courses, one of them was in person, while the other two were online. At first, I was struggling with teaching an online course due to the fact that I would, I felt like I wasn’t building the proper rapport with my students. So I ended up taking multiple online courses that the university provided and I found that incredibly helpful with teaching online. My in person course was beginning public speaking, and in comparison to other classes I taught before, it felt different in a positive way. My students were different in comparison to those I’ve had in the past my students reminded me of a lot of people I grew up with, and I felt at home or home like spirit when I was around them and to me, that’s powerful. I was able to joke around with my students to build a rapport with them in the ways that I struggled with at Texas A&M. My classes were incredibly diverse and that was something that I admired and loved tremendously. One of the things that I became aware of, and what multiple colleagues and mentors of mine Here at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) told me was that students put in a lot of effort and dedication into their work, and I noticed that instantly. I also noticed that there are cases in times where school wasn’t their main priority.

Again, the demographics here are very different in comparison to Texas A&M. Students here were often working full-time jobs, taking care of their family, or other situations that put their education on the side for a bit. These are the stories that I would hear in my public speaking class, and the stories inspired me. My students inspired me. I always want to become a better instructor and professor each semester, but after hearing the experiences of my students through impromptu speeches, and reading the experiences of my students in online discussion posts, I wanted to be even better.

I always tell my classes that I want to give them their money's worth, because they’re the ones that pay me through their tuition, financial aid, or however, they pay for their classes. So I tell them it is my job to give them their money's worth in their classes. I feel that that is only right in return. And while I got a lot of positive feedback from my students describing how much they enjoyed my teaching, I was the one who felt blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with them, and hopefully teach them something along the way.

Additionally, I want to try to create more creative and innovative related assignments for my classes. I experimented subtly with some assignments and noticed students resonated with those assignments a lot more than just the regular more “mundane” assignments. For all my final assignments or final projects for my classes, I had them create video reflections inspired by a chapter and popular culture. I need to give credit where credit is due because this concept and assignment was inspired by one of my mentors, Dr. Joey Lopez. In his popular culture courses, his final projects are video assignments similar to the ones in my courses. I need to also add that Joey is the reason I started documenting my semester experiences as well. Here students were able to reflect on the course concepts and theories and connect them to form a popular culture that they personally enjoy. Seeing examples and projects that my students ended up working on and discussing made me so incredibly proud. I’ll be sharing some of these examples below.

Quick note: I just wanted to add that I was given permission by each of these students to highlight their work and use their projects for examples for future students.

Comm 1302: Mass Media

Comm 1306: Beginning Public Speaking

Comm 3133: Race, Ethnicity, and Communication

Guest Lectures and a Panel Discussion:

I also had the chance to be invited to a variety of classes and panel discussions at UHD, Texas A&M, and Syracuse Universities. Additionally, I also was the guest speaker for the UHD Communication Honors Society awards presentation. I felt honored and am extremely grateful to be asked and invited to participate at all these amazing events.

UHD Graduation:

This semester, I also had the opportunity to experience graduation as an assistant professor. It was also my first time visiting Minute Maid Park, home of the World Series champions, Houston Astros. I’m not a baseball fan, but I’m happy for Houston because my students were so excited to see their team win that championship. It really was an awesome experience seeing so many of these amazing students graduate. I cannot wait to see some of my former students walk that stage and graduate. I’ll be a proud Professor. I made a short video to showcase my experience at the UHD graduation, and here it is below.

What’s next?

Now that I feel a little bit more grounded here in Houston and at UHD, I’m going to continue to push myself in a healthy way to become a better professor. I know without a doubt I made some mistakes along the way, but that’s how we grow. That’s how we learn. I'm really lucky to have my dream job and to work with not only fantastic students, but wonderful colleagues who are so helpful and supportive. I don’t take that for granted. I don’t just want to get better for myself, but for the people I mentioned as well. So with that being said, I have plenty of goals in mind that I want to tackle and knock out, including working on some research projects, some of which will be published in 2023. Stay tuned for that.

Until next time, friends. Be cool. Stay awesome. Happy Holidays and let’s make 2023 even better!

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