A Response to the Only Interview Question That Matters

Just recently, I read an article by Lou Adler about the most important question during a job interview. Yes, there may be a lot of important and hard-to-answer questions, but this one was particularly challenging and one that really got me thinking about my professional background; one that I will try to answer as a reflective exercise in this evolving role I am taking in my current job.

The question reads: "What single project of task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?

In the last few months, my role at the Center for Teaching and Learning at LaGuardia Community College has evolved considerably. My primary role of teaching students how to build their portfolios has slowly opened up space to other opportunities in working with other staff at the center, faculty across departments, and with students, of course.

Quickly, I realized this project was an opportunity for me to further my professional relationship with them, one that came with bigger responsibilities and expectations.

Some background

The project that I am both excited about and very busy with these days is the first year seminar that the center is implementing. It all started a few semesters ago with a big task force initiated by President Mellow and which resulted in a number of recommendations to strengthening the relationship between academic and student affairs. One of the recommendations was to redesign the first year seminar for students and that it include three major components: a college 101 approach, an introduction to the discipline, and a third component with integrative support tools such as ePortfolio along with studio hour sessions with a peer mentor.

The Challenges and Our Work

Two major challenges arose as we moved this forward and because of my role in the process, I got to both contribute to the project and learn as well. First, we had to internalize our roles as peer mentors, our relationship with students, and the ways in which we were going to be instrumental to them, a resource. Second, working with faculty from two very different departments and with different cultures (within their own departments) put us in the position where we needed to get back to the basics and rethink our approach.

With this new project, countless meetings were scheduled. These were led by the Associate Dean at the college and comprised of student affairs staff, senior center staff, and faculty leaders from the two departments we were working with, my manager and I were the ones representing our team. Quickly, I realized this project was an opportunity for me to further my professional relationship with them, one that came with bigger responsibilities and expectations. In order to address our first challenge, we had to work closely with our current staff and explain to them the transition to this new project. I suggested to align our current tasks as being the primary ones in our new roles, that way, most of us would experience a smoother transition. Listening to what others had to say in this particular case was also crucial because people always have always to say and that can elicit newer and better approaches to dealing with this new change. Plus, listening strengthens the relationships among us. We had a number of meetings where we shared our experiences as first year students and how we would function in this new role.

Student Success Mentors (SSMs) at LaGuardia. These folks were recruited and trained to work with first year students in building their portfolios and succeeding in college (Click image to enlarge)

Our second challenge was working with faculty from different departments, both at different levels of familiarity with ePortfolios. This added to the way in which each department works was an interesting challenge. During the meetings, we were the voice of the peer mentors, the liaison between them and faculty during the faculty professional development seminar. We were required to reach a baseline and work with faculty from the basics all the way up in how to use the ePortfolio in the classroom and how to utilize it to infuse reflective learning. I was instrumental both in the mechanics of building an ePortfolio, but also in helping design a lesson plan around it. By using an ePortfolio, students can reflect on their own learning experience and collaborate with others in projects. Faculty leaders were able to adopt the ePortfolio as a tool to introduce students to the discipline and reflect on their learning. 

What I Am Learning

As I mentioned earlier, this new project opened up doors to increase my professional network with faculty across departments, but it is also giving me an opportunity to improve my leadership skills. In addition, my work with students is now different as we are working with first year students, students who are new to the college environment. Since this is an ongoing process, there is definitely more room to keep on growing and learning.

What about you? What is your big project that you'd highlight as a big accomplishment? You can share it in the comments below.


ABOUT PABLO

I am an ePortfolio instructor working in New York City. I am also a student in the MA program in educational psychology at Hunter College. In my current position, I instruct students how to develop and build their ePortfolio to showcase their academic skills. I also collaborate in professional development seminars with faculty members from various departments on building the curriculum to teach the first year seminar experience. Read more about me.