Why you should build valuable relationships with faculty


The Daily Illini File Photo

Professor Lena Hann hands out an entertaining prize as her students burst into laughter during her last lecture at Illinois on May 3.

By Camille Baer , Assistant features editor

While it may seem daunting to step foot in a lecture with 500 or more students, here are some ways to differentiate yourself as a name among a sea of faces.

You may be thinking what difference does knowing your professors make, but putting yourself out there goes a long way with most professors.

The first step to finding yourself in the good graces of your professor merely begins with an introduction. Meeting your professor during the first few weeks of class shows both initiative and resourcefulness.

By proving you’re not interested in staying “unknown,” so to speak, it exhibits a professional behavior professors will react well to. It also proves your respect and willingness to step out of your comfort zone in the beginning of the year.

After you’ve established this first connection, it’s good to continue reaching out to your professor throughout the course of the class, whether it’s via email or in person. Doing such will further strengthen this growing relationship.

When looking for ways to reach out, try thinking of unique ways to tie your class materials with something more current. This opens up room for greater conversation, and it also proves you’re interested in the class’s content.

Professors appreciate it when their students think outside the box, especially when they’re able to bring forth new thoughts and ideas relevant to the course.

It’s a great idea to ask for guidance from your professors as well — they’re there to help students, and want to see us succeed. No doubt this sounds very cliche, but it’s completely true. No professor wants to see a student fail their class by any means, and would provide any help necessary to advise them in the right direction.

Depending on the course, professors are quite open-minded in discussing assignments from alternative courses, including papers and projects. Professors offer pointed skillful advice that is invaluable to other course work, all only a simple email or meeting away.

Maintaining a positive relationship with your professors not only serves as a source of educational assistance, but also an outlet for guidance in future courses and school work.

These professors may come of assistance to you long after you’ve finished their class, especially in terms of networking and recommendation letters. It is much more impactful to have a professor who actually knows you recommend you for a job or graduate school rather than getting what is little more than a form letter from someone who you’ve never met.

Much of this probably seems like a heavy exaggeration to ease your incoming freshman minds, but it’s entirely true. In order to achieve a solid relationship with your professor, all it takes is the drive to do so.

It’s quite simple actually. Professors at the University do not exist for the sole purpose of standing in front of 50, 100 or even 700 students in hopes that at least one student is paying attention to the lecture.

They want their students to be curious, to ask questions, to challenge other thoughts, to create new relationships and most importantly, to not be afraid of doing so. It’s certainly easier said than done, but once you’ve established this relationship, you will be thankful to have left your safety blanket at home.

Camille is a sophomore in Media. 

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