The Focus is You: Michelle Pautz

Michelle Pautz, PhD, is an assistant provost for the Common Academic Program and professor of Political Science at the University of Dayton. She shares that being patient with yourself is key when starting out and that having a humble mantra helps when it comes to learning. For Pautz, watching her students pursue meaningful careers in government agencies and the non-profit sector fills her with pride.

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

Pautz: I try to help my students understand that learning is a process and it is hard for all of us–me included.  It’s a process, because you’re always learning, there’s always more to learn, to understand, to connect, and there’s no endpoint.  An undergraduate degree does not mean you’ve learned it all, in fact, it’s just the beginning.  And because learning is a lifelong process, it can be hard.  As the old adage goes, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know anything.  That can be hard and it can be humbling. 

How do you keep things fresh in the classroom?

Pautz: I’m almost always bringing in new techniques or ideas I’ve gathered from colleagues, conferences, and things I read about teaching and learning.  I teach in political science, so I almost always have new current events to draw on as well.

If you could give your ‘first year of teaching-self’ advice, what would it be?

Pautz: I think the biggest thing I would tell my ‘first year of teaching self’ would be to be patient.  You don’t have to do it all–flip your classroom, have rubrics for everything, etc.–your first year.  Teaching is a learning process and it takes time.  Always try something new, but be patient because it can take a couple of times to get an activity to work or a simulation to get the kinks out of it. 

What have you incorporated into your classroom that strengthens your teaching?

Pautz: I got some good advice a number of years ago to always explain to my students why–why I selected activities, assignments, readings, etc.  I shouldn’t expect my students to crawl inside my mind so they can see why I do what I do in the classroom–that’s ridiculous!  I have to explain it to them and by doing so I help them see the logic and intention behind all of my choices in the classroom and help them connect what we are doing and why we are doing it.  Doing this has changed my teaching for the better.

What accomplishment fills you with the most pride in your teaching career?

Pautz: My biggest sense of pride in my teaching career comes from my seeing my students take what they’ve learned and incorporate it into meaningful careers in the public sector.  I teach government because I want my students to understand government and to comprehend the role of the government in our lives.  I want students to see the role of the public sector in our lives and demystify that role.  Seeing former students go on to pursue amazing and meaningful careers in government agencies and the non-profit sector fills me with so much pride because we need the best and brightest to serve the public and it’s gratifying to know that I have had a little bit to do with a few of them finding their way to this sector.