By: Grace Kos-Dondlinger
Michigan State University’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations faculty offer students unique opportunities to assist in the classroom and engage with other AD+PR students. Undergraduate learning assistants or ULAs can be active participants in the coursework of students by helping peers grasp the material. Most ULAs have taken the class previously and can offer expertise to current students. Some students may find that getting help from a peer is less intimidating than going to a professor for help. ULAs become an additional resource for success beyond the professor. Having a ULA present in the classroom is a win-win for both the ULA and the students in the class.
As a ULA for PR 225, “Writing for Public Relations,” I took attendance, graded assignments, answered questions and provided editing feedback to my enrolled student peers. It’s important to note that ULAs don’t provide grades but are an additional resource for professors and students to gain a greater understanding for the course content and a rich experience. The position is a great fit for anyone who’s looking for the rewarding opportunity to meet and mentor younger AD+PR students.
AD+PR professor of practice, Robert Kolt, understands the benefits of having ULAs in the classroom. Kolt started as a professor of practice at MSU in 1993.
“It’s a great learning opportunity for them,” Kolt said. “There are a lot of things that students need to know that the ULAs can take time to explain how to successfully navigate the course.”
Kolt is an avid user of ULAs and tries to have at least one in every course. In my own experience working with Professor Kolt, COVID-19 hasn’t put a halt to ULA opportunities. When the spring 2022 semester was set to be virtual for the first three weeks, I was able to assist on ZOOM, then transition seamlessly to in-person learning.
Becoming a ULA can also further AD+PR majors in their educational requirements. The position helps fulfill requirements for PR majors. ULA positions with PR faculty can count toward the required 250 hours of field experience requirement. Students can also choose to work for pay or credits through enrollment in PR 493: PR Internship for Credit.
Kolt says good ULAs should be eager to further the Department of AD+PR’s mission. He says he looks for ULAs who have “good communication skills, the ability to write well, have extensive knowledge about the subject and just an empathetic attitude.”
ULA opportunities are available to any student who is willing to market themselves to a professor: their potential employer. To uncover opportunities, though, students need to take the initiative.
“They need to ask – they need to ask professors,” Kolt said. “Professors who don’t have need for ULAs themselves will be happy to give recommendations to other professors.”