Some of the greatest blessings of my career at the University of Dallas are my friendships with professors. They were an unexpected blessings. For the first few weeks of my freshman year, I was fairly convinced that they were trying to destroy my life. I can’t honestly swear that I’ve never cried during office hours, and it would be a stretch to say that I never got into slightly heated debates with some of our faculty. Yet, looking back, I am both proud and humbled by the fact that almost every professor I have ever had still knows me. Like all good friendships, those with faculty take work. However, like all the best friendships — those that really challenge us to grow and improve — they are worth it.
The most important step in building relationships with faculty is to realize that professors are on your side. They are here to help us in our search for truth, and they really, truly want us to find it. They are not content when we are mediocre, apathetic, or lazy. Tests, essays and assignments are designed to be challenging – to keep us up at night, to think in new ways and to develop skills and resources we never knew we had.
While professors strive to make it challenging, they never make it impossible. And it is here that we must make the important distinction between “impossible” and “impossible to do without asking for help.” Learning how to ask for help is a crucial life skill, and there is no better time to develop it than when surrounded by people who really want to help. Seeking help requires going to office hours and the writing lab, emailing professors and asking questions in class — all of which, though they might sound daunting now, become easy and enjoyable with practice.
When trying to build relationships with faculty, remember that you already share the common goal of wanting you to perform well and learn as much as possible from the class. Whether or not you have a distinct and overwhelming interest in the subject, you do — or at least should — have a vested interest in ensuring that your time is used wisely and efficiently. If you find a class unengaging or confusing, talk to the professor! Try to determine what it is exactly that you will learn from the course, how you can best apply it to your major, and what you can do to be a better contributor to the learning process.
It is hard to believe that the professors who awed me in my freshman year are the same ones that I locked into the Charity Week jail this past week, laughing and joking with them the entire time. I still go to the office hours that I once frequented in desperation and despair, but now I go to ask professors about their families and to tell them about my future plans and ambitions. The professors haven’t changed, but I have. Finally I have realized what a gift it is to have such an incredible faculty, and it is a gift I hope we all come to appreciate.