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Get to Know Your Faculty

Get to Know Your Faculty

Never underestimate the power of getting to know your instructors. 

Dear Students,

I owe my freshman year to two instructors. In Greek History and Civilization I earned a the worst grade on my first paper (a grade I'd not seen since 5th grade gym class) — apparently I was pretty much making stuff up and I really needed to be able to defend my views. The next paper, I researched every analysis that had been written about that text and had so many citations that the footnotes took a third of each page. The professor's written comments following the big "B-" noted, "I wanted your views, not someone else's." Later, in office hours, very supportively, he said something akin to: "All semester, I just wanted you to understand my goals for this course, which is to read, analyze, and critique a text. How about you try that for the last paper?" Next semester, I made a point of going to office hours every week. I heard lots of advice about writing and the course, but more importantly I had the opportunity to be in conversations with other students and the faculty about what is creative, how we make big decisions, and what are our values -- nothing to do with the course per se, but very energizing and inspirational to me. I even had someone to talk to when a bad event occurred in my family.

Both examples inform my advice for you: make it your business to know and understand your faculty; understand from them what are the skills necessary to become a master of the material. Make an appointment, and in addition to seeking advice about your course, get to know what they do, why they find it interesting, and what their field is all about. You will will become a more educated learner, and by meeting them you will perhaps open doors to new knowledge, an appreciation for their field, or just be on their radar as a hard-working student. I think sometimes students feel faculty are like Professor Snape in Hogwarts. Not so. They made career decision to be a teacher, and you know well from your high school experience that teachers made the difference. In fact, research shows that professors connecting with students has a big influence on continued success in a field.

Many students do this naturally, and they ask about everything needed to be successful, to how to decide between med/grad/professional school options, to how to research careers accessible to their degree, to how to feel more connected to communities here on campus. Kudos to them. For many of us, this is an acquired skill, and one worth starting earlier than later.

Best wishes for the coming week,
Dr. Kopp

PS:  Each week I will share with you academic deadlines and significant announcements about events and opportunities.  Please check out the following *link* which includes the add/drop dates for courses, seminars, scholarships, etc.

PPS:  Bad joke of the week (for those of you who made it this far):  Why do programmers confuse Halloween and Christmas? Because Oct 31 = Dec 25.

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Thursday, 27 January 2022

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