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About the Program

Welcome to the Section Leader Program website. This site serves as a hub for the Section Leader program. Use the links to find out more about Section Leading, information about classes with Section Leaders, lab hours for the current semester, and other Section Leader related information.

History

How was the program formed?

The idea of a Section Leader program is the brainchild of Senior Lecturer Stuart Reges, who started the program while he was Senior Lecturer at Stanford University. Stuart founded the program here in 1998, where it has continued to evolve and flourish.

In 2004 Suzanne Westbrook accepted the role of Faculty Advisor for the Section Leader Program. Her tenure solidified the Section Leader Program as a valued asset for facilitating the Department of Computer Science's introductory courses.

The current Faculty Advisor is Dr. Lester McCann. Since 2010 he and the Section Leader Coordinators have worked together to maintain the program's impeccable reputation and help it evolve to meet the growing needs of the University of Arizona's Department of Computer Science.

Responsibilities

What is a Section Leader?

A Section Leader is an undergraduate who works for the University of Arizona Computer Science Department and assists in the teaching of introductory Computer Science courses. All Section Leaders have taken and excelled in the classes they work for, and therefore are very familiar and comfortable with teaching the material to new students.

What do Section Leaders do?

Section leaders have many responsibilites:

  • Prepare and lead a weekly discussion section for a small group of students to answer questions, review old material, present new content, and provide an intimate, small classroom experience for students in a large university class

  • Grade programs and assignments and assist the instructors in developing criteria and testing suites

  • Staff Computer Science labs to help students as they work on their assignments

  • Interact with students, fellow Section Leaders, and University instructors and faculty in a upbeat and professional environment

  • Attend class lectures to better relate material in section

New Section Leaders take CSC 391, an upper-division course where they learn valuable teaching skills from experienced Section Leaders.

Community

How is the Section Leader Program Organized?

Each of the introductory Computer Science courses at the university has a group of section leaders assigned to it to assist the students with their efforts in class. Additionally, one Section Leader per class, the head Section Leader, works closely with the instructor in organizing the Section Leaders for their class and planning course material (such as assignments and tests).

There are also two experienced Section Leaders who work as Section Leader Coordinators, managing the entire group of Section Leaders across all courses. More information about the coordinators can be found at our Coordinator Page. Finally, a member of the department faculty serves as a supervisor to the program to advise and assist the coordinators in their duties.

Extra-Curricular Activities

The Section Leaders lead rich and vibrant lives outside of their scholastic environments. The Section Leader Coordinators will sometimes organize events such as coding contests, movie nights, sporting events, and other fun things. Events like these are designed to build camaraderie among all SLs, not just those who work with each other every day.


Testimonials

I owe my entire career to my experience as a Section Leader at Arizona. I started as a Section Leader and later became a Section Leader Coordinator. I worked with Suzanne Westbrook, Rick Mercer, and Stuart Reges, who were all excellent to work with and taught me a lot. I was even given opportunities to help teach some classes as a graduate student at U of A. My SL experience helped me get my first industry job at Microsoft and later led me to my current teaching career. I currently work as an instructor at the University of Washington. This fall I have almost 30 Section Leaders (we call 'em "TAs") of my own. It is a great joy to me to come full circle and to see the growth of the young TAs in my own courses that I am teaching. We chose to follow this model of undergrad TAs/SLs at Washington based on how successful it has been at Arizona. I feel confident saying that if I hadn't been a part of Arizona's wonderful Section Leader program back in the early 2000s, I would not be where I am today!
--
Marty Stepp
Lecturer, Computer Science & Engineering
University of Washington
Being a part of the Section Leader program for 4.5 years was by far the highlight of my time at the University of Arizona. From the satisfaction of helping students learn material to the close interactions with the faculty, everything about my experience with the program was top notch. Section Leading provided me with countless opportunities for self-improvement. Through teaching others, I was able to cement my understanding of Computer Science topics and expand my skillset. Beyond that, the Section Leader program introduced me to a community of incredibly smart and talented people. During my time there I met quite a few people who continue to be close friends (And "close friend" is not a term I throw around lightly). The program also offers a rare experience not found at other Universities. Without Section Leading, my resume would have been identical to thousands of other graduates. I know that the reason I was targeted for recruitment by Microsoft was because of the time I spent as a Section Leader. I truly believe that participating in the Section Leader program is one of the most worthwhile activities an undergraduate can do while studying at the University of Arizona.
--
Phillipe Flamm
Software Development Engineer in Test
Microsoft
The Section Leader program was one of the best experiences of my college years. Not only is it a great way to meet and interact with other students but it also helps to reinforce what you are learning in your Computer Science coursework. Further, I met some of my best friends in the Section Leader program, relationships that continue today even after I have graduated. In short if you have any interest at all in the program I would very much encourage you to apply!
--
Nick Mardian
Software Engineer
Boeing

How Do I Join? (And other Info)

What do I need to do to become a Section Leader?

Check this website's home page towards the end of the semester to find the link to the online application for the following semester. The coordinators will also be making a presentation in each of the introductory computer science courses when aplications are being accepted. If you have any questions about applying, please email slcoord@cs.arizona.edu and one of the coordinators will get back to you as soon as possible.

Requirements

  • Will have completed the introductory series (110/120) by the end of the semester you apply.
  • Be able to attend the weekly half-hour community meeting, every Wednesday from 5 to 5:30 pm
  • Be able to attend CSC 391, from about 5:30 to 6:30 pm, after community meeting, every Wednesday
  • Be eager to help students learn Computer Science!

How many hours do Section Leaders work each week?

Here is an approximate breakdown of a typical workweek for a new Section Leader:

  • 1 hour discussion section
  • .5 - 1 hour preparation for section
  • 2 - 3 hours grading
  • .5 - 1 hour responding to emails and/or Piazza posts
  • 1 - 1.5 hours attending class lectures
  • 1 hour staff meeting
  • 45 minute community meeting
  • 2 hours at the lab answering questions from students
  • 1 hour attending "teaching techniques" (CSC 391) class

about 10 - 12 total hours (varies by week and by class)

What exactly is 391?

New Section Leaders are required to attend and participate in CSC 391, a teaching techniques class. This class meets once per week for 50 minutes to provide discussion and training to help you become a better Section Leader. While you are required to attend CSC 391, you are not required to enroll.

During any semester that you are a Section Leader, you may enroll in CSC391 for between 1 to 3 hours of upper division, CS, independent study credit. The university expects a student to work 3 hours for each unit of credit, and does not allow students to receive both pay and credit for the same work. This means that taking CSc 391 credit will reduce the pay a section leader receives each week: for example, a Section Leader taking CSC 391 for 1 credit will receive three fewer hours of pay each week, 2 credits will receive 6 fewer hours of pay each week, and 3 credits will receive 9 fewer hours of pay per week.

This option is available each semester that a Section Leader participates in the program. Credit received this way is graded on a pass/fail basis.