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Graduate Student Spotlight: Jenna Watson

Doctoral Candidate, Biological Anthropology

I first became interested in biological and forensic anthropology as an undergraduate, and by the time I was a senior I knew I wanted to attend graduate school for anthropology. However, I decided to take some time off after I graduated with my BA. I spent a year in AmeriCorps working on disaster response and recovery with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and then two years working as an executive assistant at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a global human rights non-profit organization. After three years off, I knew I was ready to go back to school. In 2016, I left PHR to start my master’s degree in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, where my research focused on methods of human identification in forensic cases. After I finished my master’s in 2018, I continued as a PhD student, where my research now focuses on skeletal stress, health, diet, and migration in Romanian populations from the late medieval and early modern periods, and I am a graduate teaching assistant for Human Anatomy.

This past fall I was able to participate in the CIRTL F.U.E.L course, which allowed me to gain a better understanding of myself as an instructor, how I like to engage with students, my teaching philosophy, and how to design and implement effective courses with clear learning and teaching goals. As a graduate student, you are often thrown into a teaching position where you must figure it out as you go, so it was great to finally have a course that provided specific information on how to be an effective instructor and identify the type of instructor you want to be. I feel much more prepared not just in the course I teach now, but also as I begin to enter the job market.

Currently I teach lab sections for the human anatomy course, and this can be a course that is very overwhelming to students, as it is a lot of information and requires a different approach to studying that they may not be used to compared to other courses. Rather than just telling my students the answer or lecturing to impart information, I have been able employ some of the methods I learned in the F.U.E.L course that allow me to guide them to the right answer and provide them with the tools and skills to find the information they need. The moment when it clicks, and they have that “ah ha!” moment where they figure it out and understand the information is very rewarding as an instructor.