new ideas and a reflection: building relationships with faculty

On Wednesday, September 19th, 2nd Year Humanities Scholars students were given a lecture by guest speaker Dr. Melissa Curley, a professor of Comparative Studies who specializes in Japanese Religions, Buddhism and Modernity, Religion and the Body, and the Kyoto School of Philosophy. She provided some advice for building relationships with faculty members since these relationships will prove important when seeking reference letters in the future and possibly gaining access to certain career/research/etc. opportunities.

Dr. Curley describe some benefits of attending Office Hours or “Student Hours” to build a relationship with a professor.

  • The professor can put a student’s face to his or her name, which can be especially important in a large-classroom setting.
  • Meeting with the professor one-on-one can provide clarity for the student if he or she is struggling with a particular assignment or concept.
  • A student interested the professor’s own field of study could gain more insight on how to become involved with that particular field.

Common fears that might prevent a student from attending office hours include:

  • “I don’t feel confident enough to ask the professor for help.”
  • “I feel confident with the material and find trouble finding something to talk with the professor about.

Advice for combating these two fears:

  • Go to professor for help, even if you’re scared. They have direction and know what they seek from the assignments they assign. Bring a friend with you if you’re nervous.
  • When at a networking event, challenge yourself to meet with and obtain contact information for a certain number of people. This is especially important for shy individuals who may find comfort in speaking only with people they know.
  • When attending office hours, come up with a list of possible questions to ask professor before you meet.
  • To expand the conversation, ask the professor about him or herself: What special projects do you work on? What do you think about [ insert relevant topic ] ? How does this [ specific course-related topic ] apply to the world? Do you know of any opportunities that would allow me to explore [ this topic ] ?
  • Don’t be afraid to accept gifts from others.
    • She explained how she would take small groups of students to an informal setting such as a coffee shop to work on projects and would offer them a beverage or food at her expense. A majority of the students declined the food. She compared Asian culture to North American culture in how in Japan if a person of higher status than you offers you something, you accept as not to offend. In North American, we often feel that we are imposing on others when we accept their gifts.
  • Study abroad if you can.

Emphasizing the impact of a study abroad experience on life, Dr. Curley discussed how studying abroad can facilitate fostering a relationship with a faculty member who is involved with the trip. I asked Dr. Curley directly about study abroad opportunities related to music. She mentioned a History of the Beatles course that involves a tour of Europe, The Brazil Experience: Surveying Brazil through Music Education. She also mentioned her own experiences studying in Japan which is something I’ve dreamed about since I was 12.

I personally can relate to feeling shy about speaking with people at social events. I often meet people yet rarely follow up in a strategic way. That’s certainly something I could improve on. I also need to become better at building relationships with actual faculty. I’m pretty good at building relationships with upperclassman students involved in my fields of interest (photography, graphic design, and music/music ed) and I feel comfortable having interesting conversations with faculty members; however, I haven’t found a faculty member that is involved in a field of study that I really have interest in quite yet. I also struggle with accepting gifts or help from people at times because I feel that I’m imposing on someone. I’m becoming better at graciously accepting gifts and aid. In light of this quick seminar, I’ve decided that one of my goals for this year is to build a relationship with at least two faculty members.


Humanities Scholars Meeting Notes, Wednesday September 19th

Topic: Building relationships with a faculty member

GOALS: Leadership Development

Summary: How to build relationships with faculty in and outside of the classroom.