SU pushes ties with profs

| Contributing Reporter
Student Union is planning to roll out a new program to help build relationships between students and professors outside the classroom through various informal social events.
Kady McFadden, chair of the Student Union (SU) Academic Affairs Committee, came up with the program, called “Meet the Prof.” It is still in its initial planning stages.

McFadden found inspiration for “Meet the Prof” through a similar program at Northern Illinois University. She noted that the relationships between teachers and students in high school are much stronger and that this program would provide the opportunity to extend that atmosphere into the college environment, where larger class sizes make it more difficult for relationships to form.

“I wanted to start the project because I feel like throughout my three years at Wash. U., I don’t have strong relationships with my professors,” McFadden said. “I hope this will start to link students and professors outside the classroom. It will build relationships outside the classroom.”

The programming will be informal, and events will take place in the late afternoon before professors leave to go home. Events will provide a chance for students to interact with their professors informally outside the classroom.

Since students are often not able to get to know their professors well, senior Dan Minot believes that the programming might help to bridge student-faculty gaps.

“This sounds like a great idea because I think that often times students miss out or aren’t provided with opportunities to truly get to know their professors outside the classroom,” Minot said.

Separate academic departments will host the events. The program will be piloted in the political science department, although the event will be open to everyone, including non-political science majors.

Possible venues for the first event include a professor’s home or the Danforth University Center Formal Lounge. The first event may take place in the second or third week of the spring semester.

McFadden has been working on the plans for this first event with Andrew Rehfeld, associate professor of political science and director of undergraduate studies, who also serves as a faculty fellow in the Liggett-Koenig residential college, where he lives. The logistics for the initial event have yet to be finalized, but it will likely be a casual Monday night gathering with food in which students and professors can interact.

“It’s a fantastic idea—too often, professors have a very narrow view of the students in the class,” Rehfeld said.  “Some students have a narrow view of professors. It adds to the classroom experience, to foster informal communication between the two and will get students excited about ideas.”

As part of his duties as faculty fellow, Rehfeld engages with his students and fellow residents by reading Dr. Seuss to them each week while serving hot chocolate and cookies.

“Dr. Seuss is great, because there is a very simple message on the surface. But with a little prodding you can get below the surface. It has the virtue of being easily accessible and at the same time, much deeper than it appears.”

After the kickoff event in the political science department, McFadden plans to expand the program to other departments in the College of Arts & Sciences and then later into the art and architecture schools.

In order to get professors involved, organizers will speak with department heads, who will then help encourage members of their departments to attend the programs.

“I hope it’s something both students and professors value,” McFadden said. “It will become an annual or semesterly event that will happen without our involvement.”

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