Managing the role of an undergraduate teaching assistant (UTA) on top of a normal class load can be challenging. A UTA’s responsibilities can range from grading homework assignments to responding to student emails late at night. This past year, one notable UTA went above and beyond to help students: Brandon Kang, now an alumnus of the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), who served as a UTA for ISyE statistics and regression courses.
Not only did Kang win ISyE’s 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Award, he also received the 2020 Undergraduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award from Georgia Tech. According to Kang, he wasn’t expecting either. “It's incredibly gratifying and very humbling. After receiving both awards, I realize that I'm in a position where I can make an impact on someone’s life, and I don’t take that for granted,” Kang said.
“Brandon was my UTA for ISyE 4031 during the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters,” said ISyE Lecturer Gamze Tokol-Goldsman. “Brandon exceeded all my expectations by far and was that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ UTA who makes teaching a breeze. I have never seen such an organized, prompt, dependable, courteous, and responsible teaching assistant -- and the students loved him! I was so impressed so that I nominated Brandon for the ISyE Outstanding UTA Award."
Kang’s motivation for teaching stems from his interest in helping others. He founded the Georgia Tech organization Seoulstice, a K-Pop dance team. “One of the main reasons why I wanted to be a UTA was inspired by my experience leading a dance team. I teach choreography, and it's always a really good feeling when I help someone become better at dancing,” Kang said.
Beyond grading assignments and holding office hours, Kang implemented additional resources for his students. With permission from Tokol-Goldsman, he introduced review sessions before exams that allowed students to go over fundamental concepts and practice problems. Additionally, he made software notes in Python to facilitate the class’s understanding of the regression course material. This, along with his passion for teaching, set him apart from other teaching assistants.
“My biggest takeaway from being a UTA is being able to understand different perspectives,” Kang said, “I am constantly improving my communication skills.”
Outside the classroom, Kang has had two data science internships that have given him valuable experience. “I can always take my experience back to the classroom and show how regression applies to real world situations,” Kang explained. This summer, he interned with Roblox before returning to Tech to pursue a master's degree in analytics. Career-wise, his goal is to invest his skills and experience into the data science field.
Being a UTA is an experience Kang will use for a lifetime, professionally and personally. The biggest takeaway for him is being able to communicate and present information in a clear, concise way. “The best feeling as a TA is knowing that you made a positive influence on someone's life and at the end of the day, you helped someone. That is the best part,” Kang concluded.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering