While many students are accustomed to having advising meetings and office hours with their professors, faculty are available to discuss topics beyond the classroom. Whether it be in a direct mentor-mentee relationship or simply a faculty member you have class with, asking your professor questions can be a formative experience for both parties.
Tamara Welter, associate professor and chair of the Department of Media, Journalism & Public Relations, says that meeting one-on-one with students is one of her favorite part of her job. She also says that she wished she had talked more with her professors when she was an undergraduate student.
“I think I would have liked to know that my faculty desired to have conversation with me, that they wanted to explore ideas and life with me,” said Welter. “I often kept my distance, but now I wonder how many would have invited my questions and conversation.”
Here are five conversation starters to ask your professor.
1. What department events or opportunities should I be aware of?
Faculty can often tell you about opportunities you might be interested in. Some may even be able to inform you of events before they’re announced, giving you a better chance of securing a seat in a new class or selective program. Even if the professor doesn’t have anything in mind, discussing your passions can help them remember you if a relevant opportunity arises, or even help provide the impetus for a new program.
Not all departments advertise their events online, but some departments do publicize their events and programs well in advance. Ask your department’s administrative coordinator for information or check out Biola’s events page for general listings.
2. How can I achieve my academic or professional goals?
The Advising Center and Career Center are not your only resources for school or work-related insight. Your professors also have a wealth of knowledge about what it takes to succeed in either your classes or your field. Many of them may even have experience working in the career you see yourself entering. As previously mentioned, faculty can connect you with internships and programs well-suited to helping you excel.
3. What did you wish you knew when you were a student?
All your professors were, at one point or another, a student. Though their college experience may have been different from yours, there are many ways in which they can relate. The answer to this question may help you avoid potential pitfalls or take advantage of the opportunities they weren't aware of when they were an undergraduate.
Asking questions about personal experience also shows you’re interested in discussing matters with your professor beyond class schedules and major requirements, which can open the door to a deeper mentorship.
4. Can I talk to you about something I’ve been going through?
You may not be comfortable discussing your personal thoughts with a professor – and that’s okay! But many faculty are willing to learn about you beyond what they see in class. They too, experience the same emotions you do: anger, frustration, sadness, joy, surprise, bitterness.
Welter says that she recently had several conversations with students that went beyond the field of academic advising. She talked with her advisees about responsibility and hearing God, and even discussed the fears they were walking through.
“I really love the questions that aren't easy to answer – the ones that show students are grappling with life and faith just as I am,” said Welter. “I do like to help students answer questions about their majors, too. But my favorite questions are the ones that require us both to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our exploration.”
If you want to talk to someone about something weighing on your mind, but don’t feel comfortable doing so with a professor, Pastoral Care offers meetings with Student Development’s campus ministers.
5. What has God been teaching you recently?
No matter what field a faculty member specializes in – theology, art, music, English – all Biola faculty are committed to Christ and biblical truth. Professors are prepared to listen to the Holy Spirit with you. Listening is both an educational opportunity and an act of service.
“I'm frequently challenged to renew my passionate pursuit for Christ because of conversations with students,” said Welter. “Often when we are learning, we are deliberately investing in ideas that are innovative and often revolutionary in nature. Students help me stay in this discovery space where I sense God in unique ways.”
Faculty have different methods of making appointments with students. To find out how to schedule a meeting with your professor, find their contact information on the Biola Directory and call them or send them an email.