A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education lauded the importance of college students making a connection with a professor.
“College graduates, whether they went to a hoity-toity private college or a midtier public, had double the chances of being engaged in their work and were three times as likely to be thriving in their well-being if they connected with a professor on the campus who stimulated them, cared about them, and encouraged their hopes and dreams.” (See more at: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Caring-Professor-May-Be-Key/146409/)
Starting college can be a difficult transition. The demands on your time, classroom challenges, and feeling alone can lead some students to drop out of college. One factor that can greatly increase a students’ likelihood of persistence in college is making a connection with a faculty or staff member. When a student feels connected to someone at the college, he or she has more motivation to attend classes and succeed.
Even though it has been more than 15 years since I was in college, I distinctly remember the faculty member whom I connected with. His name was Tom (not Dr. so and so, just Tom) and he was my sociology professor. He made such an impact on me that I ended up taking two more classes with him. Tom was the kind of professor that challenged students to think, had lively discussions in the classroom, and high expectations for our academic performance. Tom was kind, funny, smart, and caring. He knew his students well, by name and did not hesitate to call someone out for a mistake or being a goof-off in class.
I had other professors that I really liked and admired, but none that I felt comfortable with to discuss my future (graduate school), problems (annoying roommates), and fears. Tom was my go-to for recommendation letters even though I was a psych major and could have chosen from any number of psych professors. He encouraged my interest in going to graduate school and cheered me on when I applied to a number of schools.
As a staff member at a college, I hear students often ask if they can continue to see me for advising after career counseling has ended. This is not because I am the best counselor, but because they have made a connection with me and do not want to “start over” with someone else. Many counselors in our office are requested by students for the same reason. Our connection with these students can be a lifeline at times. I know that the same kinds of relationships exist with faculty and other staff all around campus. This is something that we should all be proud of and should continue to foster.
At the beginning of a new school year, it is always good to remember that our campus is full of new students. Say hi, offer assistance, and make a connection with someone on campus. It could make a huge difference in their (or your) future.