My USC Rossier Experience: How an MAT Changed My Life

My undergraduate background is in English language, and I’ve taught academic English in China, as well as business communications at a polytechnic school in Singapore. After two years at the polytechnic, I decided to earn a master’s degree in teaching because I felt that I wanted to do more than just follow a lesson plan. I wanted to expand my knowledge, hone my teaching skills and learn more about serving the needs of my students. So, I enrolled in USC Rossier’s online MAT program.

I chose the MAT online program because it could accommodate my needs as a working mom. Once the kids went to bed in the evening, I could go straight to my study for class without having to spend hours commuting to and from a physical location. USC offered a unique online experience that relied on video conferencing and study groups, which promoted an active engagement among students and faculty. To be honest, I was skeptical of the online experience at first, but after a few classes, I was convinced of its benefits.

If I had to choose one defining aspect of the MAT program, it would be study groups. For me, learning in study groups was a new way of learning. Not only did we have regular group presentations on our readings, but we also had group assignments. Working in groups can be challenging with different personalities and working styles. I was blessed with group mates who complemented one another, and we learned from each other’s strengths. All of us were working full time, so our meetings were highly focused and productive, and they resulted in work we were proud of. The learning theories we learned about in the program came alive in our very own learning experiences in the program.

Another important aspect of the MAT program was the professors. They were highly competent at managing the online learning environment — engaging us with clear presentations of complex material, responding to verbal and chat comments and questions, and giving us opportunities to interact with one another. They were also dedicated to helping us succeed. They held regular office hours and made every effort to address our concerns and questions.

The books and journal articles I read throughout the MAT program, and the research project I did for my capstone, influenced my thinking and teaching to the extent that I began thinking about pursuing doctoral studies. I was convinced of the need to further the research on English language learners and to work toward more equitable learning opportunities for them.

So, not long after I graduated from the MAT program, I applied to earn a PhD in education in New Zealand, and I’m now in my first year as a PhD student at the University of Waikato. During the USC Rossier MAT program, I read about literacy brokering among migrant English learners, and now I’m applying that concept to brokering among non-native English speaking international students in my doctoral research.

While many pursue the MAT program for a teaching credential, my journey with the MAT led me to my current path of earning a PhD. The knowledge and skills I’ve learned, and the friendships I’ve formed during the USC Rossier MAT program, remain with me to this day. In my current endeavor, I continue to be inspired by the USC Rossier spirit — Fight On!



Sherrie Lee was an MAT – TESOL student at the USC Rossier School of Education and graduated in May 2013. Sherrie is from Singapore and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. Her research is on brokering practices among international students. Prior to enrolling in the doctorate program, she was a lecturer at a polytechnic in Singapore for six years.