When Adrian Autry ’94 led the Syracuse University men’s basketball team into action against the University of New Hampshire to open the 2023-24 season, there were many familiar faces in the stands inside the JMA Wireless Dome cheering on the…
Recent Graduate Discovered Love of Statistics, Leadership as a Supplemental Instruction Leader With CLASS
Jo O’Gorman’s decision to leave Tennessee and come to Syracuse wasn’t a big departure. With parents who met at Syracuse University while earning their master’s degrees, O’Gorman grew up hearing stories about the campus. On their campus visit, they reluctantly went on a tour of the Newhouse School—where their mother earned a graduate degree. “I thought I absolutely didn’t want to go to my parents’ alma mater, but I saw how cool it was and I just had to apply.”
That wasn’t the first surprise though. “It was really funny. I always thought that I was not a math person, but then I took a statistics class, and found that I was pretty good at it and liked it. After I got an A in the class, I was approached by the Center for Learning and Student Success [CLASS] to be a supplemental instruction leader for that same statistics class. I tutored in high school, really enjoyed teaching and liked the subject, so it was an easy yes.”
What the 2021 graduate didn’t know then was that this experience, combined with their advertising degree from Newhouse and a minor in data analytics from the iSchool, would land them a rewarding job after graduation. As a digital analyst with Razorfish Health in Philadelphia, part of the Publicis Groupe, O’Gorman’s analysis work provides important market insights for health care companies.
Starting as a sophomore, O’Gorman was often teaching students who were older. This early start influenced their approach. “I had to be confident in my knowledge and in my teaching methods so that students took me seriously, and felt that I was taking their education seriously,” O’Gorman says. “I also wanted them to feel empowered, knowing that they have every right to ask all the questions. Learning is a collaboration. I learned from my students and if they said a topic didn’t make sense to them right now, I pivoted to what would most benefit them.” They also collaborated with professors, making sure that they and other tutors understood the curriculum.
Supplemental instruction is a peer-facilitated model where a CLASS employee attends the lectures for a course and designs sessions that emphasize active learning strategies. This meant that instead of tutoring once a week, they taught three times a week, designed lesson plans and taught larger groups of students.
“I discovered really quickly that you need to keep several different ways to explain a concept in your back pocket, because some students may not understand your explanation the first time around. You have to think on your feet,” O’Gorman says.
“I had to find the balance of being a leader and also being a peer, and it built my communication skills with both students and my supervisors immensely. Through this communication I built trust, allowing me to have a lot of independence to make improvements and even train a new SI [supplemental instructor] to create longevity for the position.”
This resourcefulness, along with skills learned at the Newhouse School, have been highly valuable in their first months on the job. “I think every person, especially for your first post-grad job, is nervous. My first week of work, I was asked to answer a research question using a specific dataset, and immediately realized, ‘I’ve done this before.’” O’Gorman adds that it’s not just having confidence in the technical skills you’ve learned, “Like I said earlier, I was given a lot of independence at CLASS as a supplemental instructor. I had to decide what to teach and plan how to teach it all on my own, so now when I am given a research problem to work on, I have the confidence that I can navigate to a valuable insight. It’s important because each client is different and has different tools. I can’t be afraid to ask questions.”
O’Gorman anticipates that the ability to explain data and concepts in several different ways will also be helpful, in addition to well-honed collaboration skills. “I learned the analysis skills in my major and minor, but I learned navigating an organization, presenting information to a group and helping others problem-solve at CLASS.”
“What I would say to students is that if you need a tutor, be empowered in that this is YOUR education, and take advantage of the services that are offered. CLASS provides great resources, and because it’s peer to peer, it’s flexible and you can discover the best way that you learn,” O’Gorman says.
“And if you are asked to be a tutor, never be afraid to apply. Not to be cliché, but teaching teaches you, and teaches you way more than just how to explain a specific subject. Nothing has taught me leadership, confidence and communication like being a supplemental instructor.”