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How to Interract with Professors

February 21, 2018
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by Maggie Tirrell ’19, Cinema Studies and Media Studies Double Major from Greenfield, MA


Being in college is a big deal. You’re suddenly engulfed in the world of arts and academia, on your way to becoming a professional in whichever field you have committed to. Although it might not feel like it at first, as you’re sitting there in your Art History Survey I class when all you want to do is learn how to bronze cast, your time in college is valuable for seriously every reason, ever.

One of those valuable reasons is interacting and networking with your knowledgeable professors. Here at Purchase, professors are always actively working in their fields: the same fields you are planning to work in once you get that degree! So, of course, it makes sense to try to make acquaintances and collaborate whenever possible with your professors. But, you ask, how do you go about doing that? Well, here are a few tips:

1. In your freshman and sophomore year, search for a good advisor.

I’ve been through three advisors in my three years at Purchase. I was unaware that students had the ability, and were even encouraged, to choose their own advisors; I just kept getting assigned to professors that were only here temporarily. My current advisor is a Cinema Studies professor who I have taken a lot of classes with and really enjoy. I just can’t help but wish he had been my advisor all along! So, one recommendation I have for establishing connections with professors is to ask your favorite professor to be your advisor! It’ll help you so much in the long run to establish this kind of relationship with someone who’s the right fit for you.

2. Ask if your favorite professors need teaching assistants.

Another thing to do, both to build a relationship with professors (not to mention build up your resume and experience) is to ask them if they are teaching any classes that require a teaching assistant’s (TA) help. Currently, for my advisor I am TAing his Intro to Cinema Studies II class. It’s a great experience; I’m getting credits and the chance to help teach a course! Even if your professor doesn’t need a TA, chances are, they’ll appreciate your offer and might even let you know about some other opportunities to help them out, such as with research projects or professional work!

3. Take advantage of office hours!

All professors at Purchase are required to hold office hours at some point during the week. If you’re struggling with a project, or a class in general, this is seriously your chance to get back on track. There’s nothing better than sitting down with your professor and having a one-on-one conversation to get things sorted out. You also don’t have to wait until you’re struggling to maximize this time with them; sometimes just popping by is valuable, as well. If you don’t have time during the week to visit them during office hours, keeping up an email correspondence is always good too.

4. Treat your professors as humans, as colleagues, and as peers.

In high school, it’s easy to see your teachers as the ultimate authority figure. In college, however, professors don’t want you to be afraid of them. They want to encourage your learning and create a nice space for academic discussion (which, in many cases, benefits them and their work, too!) Although this sounds like a simple tip, it’s definitely easy to forget that your professors- although distinguished and more successful than you are (for now!)- are human and deserve to be treated as the real people that they are. Don’t run out of the room as soon as class is over, be honest when you’re struggling with something, participate in discussions. That’s all your professor wants! Recommend a movie or book or something to them; just don’t treat your professors like they are on some weird other plane– treat them like your acquaintance or your respected peer!