USC Annenberg Communication teaching assistant receives university award

As an international student who was born and raised in Korea, it took USC Annenberg Ph.D. candidate Young Ji Kim awhile to get comfortable leading lectures as a Communication teaching assistant.

“I was always nervous, I over-prepared, and things like that,” said Kim, “Then after a few semesters and after I got some good feedback from students, I got more confidence.”

And all her hard work paid off. Her latest praise came in the form of the University Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching. She was one of three teaching assistants to be recognized this year.

“It was big surprise, and I was really touched,” said Kim, who added that she was just honored to be nominated.

Kim’s first teaching experience was as a teaching assistant for Professor Ken Sereno’s introductory communications course (COMM 200). It was in this course that Kim learned the fundamentals of managing a classroom.

“[Sereno] has his authority not by forcing it, but by just being himself, and he also cares a lot about students,” said Kim.

After five semesters with Sereno, a really unique opportunity presented itself to Kim. She was asked to help Communication Professor Lian Jian design her research methods course (Understanding Social Science Research), as well as act as head teaching assistant. Kim helped choose appropriate research papers for the course and design exam questions.

Jian also allowed Kim to teach two lectures on her own during the semester.

“Her teaching style is very calm and she presents things very systematically,” said Jian. “She has this very friendly style, she’s not flashy, and she’s approachable.”

Jian added that Kim was good at establishing close relationships with the students. Any help she provided for students was very personalized to their learning style and individual struggles.

“I think she really went above and beyond what was called for as a TA,” said Jian, adding that Kim was a truly deserving candidate of the teaching assistant award.

When Sereno went on sabbatical last year, Kim was even given the opportunity to teach COMM 200 on her own during the spring semester, as well as during the summer. Last fall, she taught a communication course on empirical research methods (COMM 301L). She is teaching the same course this semester.

When she found out she had received the teaching assistant award, she first shared the news with her dissertation adviser Andrea Hollingshead.

“It was really meaningful for both of us because she knew how much I struggled and tried to improve my teaching,” Kim said of Hollingshead. “The culmination of all of this was the award.”

Kim will be recognized on April 8 at the Academic Honors Convocation Ceremony.

This summer, Kim plans to finish up her dissertation about online source credibility and how people assess the validity of online information. In regards to teaching, Kim said her experiences at USC Annenberg have made her want to continue teaching in the future.