GATE: An Enriching UC Graduate Experience

Editor's note: Since the time this article was written, the structure of GATE has changed and it is now a student organization. If you’re interested in learning more about GATE, email

Alexis Straka, co-president of GATE, wears a gray blazer and smiles in front of a bookcase.

One common problem facing many graduate students at UC is seeking out broad training and support on how to teach. Graduate students are fully steeped in research in the content areas of their fields, but are rarely provided with robust pedagogical training. Co-president of GATE, Ben Merritt, a third-year doctoral student in Biological Sciences, recalls his own troubles when he began at UC. “Starting out in the graduate program at UC, I felt woefully underprepared to take on the responsibility of having someone's education in my hands.” However, Ben took the initiative to find resources that could help him, which led him to GATE, the Graduate Association for Teaching Enhancement. 

GATE is a student-run organization supported by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning (CET&L) here at the University of Cincinnati. GATE supports graduate student teaching by facilitating monthly teaching and learning workshops and offering one-on-one consultations with graduate student teachers. GATE members are graduate students from across UC who are leaders in teaching at UC. They build connections with students from all disciplines and gain valuable experience for careers in teaching.

Ben began attending GATE workshops and found them beneficial and enjoyed the people he was meeting. He says, “[I]t was easy to keep coming back with how much fun and value there was among fellow grad students, talking about something we want to do well, be it for professional career development or because we take seriously the responsibilities placed on us.”

Alexis Straka, GATE’s co-president, a third-year doctoral student in Political Science, had a similar experience as Ben. “I joined GATE after attending several of the workshops during my first semester as a PhD student. I had TA responsibilities in my department, and attending GATE workshops helped me feel prepared to engage with students in that role.”

Sheva Guy, a third year doctoral student in Education Studies and member of GATE, explains that she began attending GATE workshops when she was a Masters student. “I got so much out of them. I then began teaching as an adjunct when I began my doctoral program, and realized that there was so much more I could learn. I also felt that as an undergraduate, many of my graduate student TAs were unprepared to teach, so I wanted to help disseminate pedagogical workshops to current graduate students so we can do better for our students.”

GATE is a unique graduate student group that has helped its members to work alongside those outside of their departments, including the professionals at CET&L. Alexis explains “My favorite parts about being involved in GATE are the relationships I’ve built with graduate students outside of my department and the amazing team at CET&L. CET&L provides us with so many resources as grad students and GATE members, and they’re an amazing asset to the UC teaching and learning community.” 

For Ben, GATE has been a one stop shop for resources. “As you get more involved you see the close connections it can foster, bridging gaps across programs and bringing together some wonderful people with unique ideas and perspectives that not only enrich day-to-day life, but also how you look at communication, be it teaching or otherwise.”

To compete in today’s market graduate students need to be well-rounded. Even Research Intensive Institutions (R1) expect faculty to have knowledge of teaching pedagogy. Waiting until you’re ready to hit the job market to learn about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) might be too late. Fortunately, attending GATE workshops and even being a member of GATE requires minimal investment. Alexis explains, “GATE is a great use of the minimal free time we do have as graduate students, and honestly, participating as a member involves attending one meeting per month and helping to facilitate one workshop per academic year which is only a commitment of about 3 hours total… the small time commitment is definitely worth it.”

This article was written by Crystal Whetsone, a fourth year doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Cincinnati and the communications officer for GATE.