The Importance of Community Centered Professional Development

By Lauren B. Gonzalez, Teaching and Learning ’14,

It’s difficult to seek “Professional Development” opportunities when you’re new to a city, school, and overall atmosphere. Perhaps you were the “big fish” in your hometown, but that significantly changes when your small pond grows into an exponentially larger body of water. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by peers with the same academic prowess and drive that you skillfully mastered in your previous environment.

That was me. I thrived in my home environment where I had learned to use any and all available resources to my benefit, but I lacked knowledge on how to apply this to a school where I knew no one and had yet to familiarize myself with the resources I needed to excel. Luckily for me, NYU Steinhardt equips students with the tools and support they need to access such resources and creates opportunities to expand upon them in academically and professionally meaningful ways.

I tapped into this support through Steinhardt’s Graduate Student Organization (GSO). Finding myself in a bigger pond, I was searching for a group that would welcome—and ease—me into my new environment. The GSO was created for the express purpose of enriching the graduate student experience while offering the student body a distinct voice in the greater NYU network. The organization is rooted in community—one that exists throughout all of NYU, but is especially strong within Steinhardt—and provided me with the reassurance and security I needed to swim freely alongside my new colleagues and professors.

We embrace growth at Steinhardt, seek to cultivate it for our students, and maintain the central belief that students are the nucleus of education. Within this framework, I was able to thrive in my new environment as I had in my previous one. Participation in GSO helped me improve my communication and public speaking skills, organizational habits, networking and presentation of self and listening skills. These lessons have been invaluable in my academic and professional field (education/teaching) and have ultimately broadened my overall perspective. I became confident in my position within my school (student, community member, student government official) and am incredibly proud of my holistic progress.