It’s not every day that you get a chance to work alongside the president. But Fox School of Business PhD student Pat Barbro is one of the lucky people who does.
Barbro, a PhD candidate in marketing, is the teaching assistant for Temple University President Neil D. Theobald’s class, titled President’s Seminar – Organizational Change at Temple University.
Barbro had not anticipated an opportunity for the position. Theobald asked the Dean’s Office in the Fox School of Business to provide him with recommendations of students who would best suit the teaching assistant position.
“The Dean’s Office called me and asked if I would be interested,” Barbro said. “It sounded really unique, so I thought, ‘Sure, I’m interested.’” After interviewing with Dr. Theobald, he was offered the position.
As teaching assistant, Barbro handles various class-related activities, including preparing and gathering necessities for Theobald before the start of each class and corresponding with students outside of class hours. He has also been asked to assist in co-teaching on subjects such as healthcare and insurance.
The class is broken into two parts that together take a year to complete. The first semester served as an overview of various parts of the university, providing students with a multitude of information with the intent of having them figure out what it is they would like to fix or see changed at the university.
“My favorite part about the class is actually learning more about the university and all of the nuances of what goes on that I would have no idea about otherwise,” Barbro said. “And I enjoy seeing the interaction from two different sides: president and freshman thoughts. It gives you a lot of perspective on how people view things.”
Theobald chose to tap into the pool of freshman students who were President’s Scholars, which is the top scholarship Temple offers, and who demonstrated leadership qualities.
At the end of the Fall 2013 semester, after discussing topics regarding on-campus safety, dining services, healthcare, the commuter experience and student debt, among others, the students were asked to write a paper about an issue that stood out to them and that they would like to be a part of changing.
This semester, they will work in groups to develop and propose ways in which they can implement change on the topic they chose. This involves giving students access to a plethora of resources as well as access to departmental heads.
Some of the questions students seek to answer include: How can we make students feel safer on or around campus?; How can Temple improve its overall dining experience (i.e., food options, meal plans, locations)?; How can Temple improve student healthcare services?; and How can Temple create a more financially literate student body?
The end goal is for the students to create a project proposal that Theobald and the university can implement as the students continue their time at Temple.
Barbro was slightly surprised by the working relationship he and Theobald maintain.
“Initially knowing you’re working with the head, president or CEO, you think, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Barbro said. “But even just from the interview, I could tell how laid back and self-sufficient he is. He’s also surprisingly accessible, considering that he’s busy 20 hours a day.”