“I knew I was in trouble when you asked that question,” says Texas A&M University Ph.D. candidate Chris Labosier on who he’s going to root for in this weekend’s game against the University of Alabama, where he earned his master’s degree in geography. “My wife and I are both from the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham area and we have family there; it’s where we go for summer and Christmas. My wife had been to almost every ‘Bama’ home game since kindergarten and we were married in Tuscaloosa. In other words, our roots are deeply entrenched in Alabama – it is home.”
It’s a forgivable transgression since Labosier has decided to pursue his doctoral degree in Texas A&M’s Department of Geography. He’s a climatologist who studies wildfire climatology in the Southeastern U.S. He says he enjoys sharing his passion for geography and environmental science with his Aggie students; currently he’s a graduate instructor teaching “GEOG 203: Planet Earth.”
To further his future in teaching, Labosier has taken advantage of Texas A&M’s Graduate Teaching Academy (GTA), a graduate student-led organization with support from the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) and the Office of Graduate Studies. He is the co-director of GTA, along with Ralph Crosby, a Ph.D. student in computer science and engineering.
“It is generally assumed that if you have your doctorate, then you’re a good teacher,” Labosier notes, “but you can get your doctorate and never have set foot in a classroom. So with that in mind, our mission is to provide professional development in the area of college teaching and higher education. We offer seminars and workshops on a variety of topics, including how to write a syllabus, assessment, reflecting on teaching and learning, philosophy of teaching statements, etc. We offer a more formal Fellows Certificate program that allows students to go more in depth into some of the topics we discuss. We work very closely with the CTE and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them. We also work very closely with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). All are welcome at GTA events, but we are designed to serve graduate students and post-docs.”
Labosier says he became involved with GTA his first semester at Texas A&M, and has been involved in some capacity ever since. “We have a number of fantastic volunteers that make Ralph and me look good,” he laughs. “GTA has made me a better teacher. In addition, I have had so many other doors opened to me, like serving as a T.A. mentor during T.A. training and being assigned to my own course this year. I attribute that to the things I’ve learned through GTA.”
Despite his full schedule, Labosier says on Saturdays, he can be found watching the Crimson Tide roll and this weekend will be no exception. And even though he won’t be saying “Gig ‘Em,” during this game, he says he strongly supports the Aggies’ move to the SEC. “I think the Aggies are a great fit for the SEC,” he notes. “I know of no reason why they won’t continue to make this seamless transition. In terms of football, all the struggles that people expected aren’t happening. I think A&M has a lot to be excited about for the future.”
Labosier remembers his own transition from Samford University in Birmingham, “which is a small, private liberal arts school with an enrollment of 4,500,” he says, “Then all of the sudden, I am one of 30,000 at Alabama. It’s a beautiful campus – red brick buildings, big oak trees – the stereotypical southern college campus. I really enjoyed my time there and my experiences prompted me to continue my education.”
Taking the leap to an even bigger university, Texas A&M, was easier, says Labosier, as College Station and Tuscaloosa share many similarities. “Walking around campus, it doesn’t feel that different than Alabama,” he explains. “The communities are very similar – both are about the same size (B/CS is a little bigger), everything revolves around the university and everyone is very nice.”
He says he admires his fellow Aggies’ dedication to tradition. “I’m impressed, considering the size of A&M, that Aggies retain so many traditions – one might think that with a school of this size, it would be easy to lose those things that make it unique.”
After obtaining his doctorate, Labosier plans to continue teaching in geography/environmental science and says he’ll always remember Texas A&M for its warm and friendly atmosphere. “Probably the main factor that sold me on A&M was how kind everyone was – so hospitable,” he explains. “I had offers from other schools, but I felt drawn here and I have not once regretted my decision. I’ll owe a lot to A&M one day.”
Labosier invites those who are pursuing a career in college teaching to look into becoming a GTA volunteer or member of the GTA Steering Committee. Visit gta.tamu.edu for more information.
Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-5591