GradFUTURES Community College Teaching Fellowship Spotlight: Merle Eisenberg *18, History

Nov. 11, 2021

In the GradFUTURES Spotlight series, Princeton graduate students share in their own words about their experiences in one of the GradFUTURES Fellowship programs: the Community College Teaching Fellowship Program, the University Administrative Fellowship Program, or the GradFUTURES Social Impact Fellowship Program. 

Where and when did your Fellowship take place?

I was a fellow in the first cohort during the spring and fall of 2017. I taught at Mercer County Community College, which is just a 15 or so minute drive down the road from Princeton.


I am now an assistant professor of history at Oklahoma State University with a cluster appointment in the newly established pandemic center at OSU. I am a historian of late antiquity and the early middle ages (c. 300-1000 CE) where I work on a variety of topics about the end of the Roman Empire and the first plague pandemic (known as the Justinianic Plague).

What drew you to the GradFUTURES Fellowship and this particular Fellowship?

I wanted to experience teaching my own course from the design to the execution of it, so I had long been on the lookout for opportunities during my time as a graduate student at Princeton. When I heard about the Community College Teaching Fellowship Program, I realized the opportunity was perfect, since it offered a semester of mentoring to learn all about teaching and the school before jumping into my own teaching. It couldn't have happened at a better time.

Can you share a bit about the Fellowship and the kinds of experiences you had while a Fellow?

Mercer County Community College is a great school just down the road from Princeton, which made it ideal for me to teach there. After observing my mentor in the spring, I taught the first half of Western Civilization (from the dawn of humankind to 1648) in the fall, which had about 25 students in the course. It was a great experience learning from the students and adjusting my teaching methods with some helpful feedback from Diane during an observation as well.

How did these experiences help you?

My time at MCCC really shaped how I have taught ever since then, both in terms of how I structure my courses and what types of assignments I give. It was the best opportunity to really try out various techniques that I learned through the McGraw Center, for example, in a course. When it came time to go on the job market, I was then able to really think through the experiences I had at MCCC to talk about effective teaching in far more detail.

Can you share some reflections on the mentorship component of the Fellowship?

Diane Rizzo, from the English department, was my mentor which was perfect, since she is an expert teacher and I learned a lot from observing her courses and talking to her about her pedagogy in the spring of 2017.

Best advice for Graduate Students considering a Fellowship through GradFUTURES?

Embrace everything the program has to offer, since there is a lot to learn if you take the time to work with your mentor, but also use the teaching opportunity to figure who you are as a teacher as well. Experiment with various things and then use the learning experience for shaping future courses moving forward.

Apply for a Community College Teaching Fellowship 

Read more GradFUTURES Fellowship Spotlights here!