Connecting With Faculty During a Pandemic: Making It Work
So much of what defines any student's college experience - especially a student's experience at a relatively small liberal arts college like Dartmouth - are the connections they make with their professors. Although I've only just finished my third week of classes, I'm already seeing the value in getting to know my professors early in the quarter. From attending virtual office hours to actively participating in class discussions, I've been able to demonstrate my interest (to my professors) in learning how I can become a better student. Trust me: professors are real people who want to work with you! In my writing class, for instance, I was able to schedule a time to meet with the instructor to discuss an upcoming assignment. And instead of simply coming away from that meeting with a better idea of what I should write about, I learned a lot about my professor's own work in her department and her personal research on language & social media (perhaps I'll have something else to do in the future!) So the point is this: faculty are always an email away, and I would encourage every student to maintain an open channel of communication with their instructors.
If I'm being honest, the pandemic has really shown me just how important it is to be flexible. External circumstances mean that you cannot really plan 'ahead' to meet with another student at the library. You also cannot guarantee that you'll have a reliable internet connection to meet up virtually with a student or professor (at a particular time) from wherever in the world you might be studying. We're all dealing with the challenges presented by the pandemic - some with more privileges than others - but the fact remains that having faculty at Dartmouth who understand what students are going through makes the learning process much less stressful. For example, several students in my math class who are studying remotely in Asia communicated to the professor that an upcoming exam fell on Mid-Autumn Festival, and he gladly extended the time window to take the exam to accommodate their observance of this cultural holiday. Similarly, I would say that students living on-campus and in the towns surrounding Hanover have had to rework the commitments (extracurricular, academic, social, etc.) they may have had before the pandemic because certain in-person labs and athletic facilities remain only 'partially' open. Maybe you cannot go to the Life Sciences Building to conduct research under a professor in person, but there are still plenty of remote opportunities!
This past week I also had a chance to reserve a time slot at Baker-Berry Library: the largest library on campus. Studying in a safe, socially-distanced way was great! Even though most classes are remote, it helps a lot to be able to study in a quiet environment (like the one the library offers). Also - professors are more than happy to help students access library resources relevant to their class. Naturally, faculty in the humanities departments are more likely to require you to make use of all that the library has to offer. (Dartmouth even offers a peer-run writing/research support program for all students called RWIT (Student Center For Research, Writing, Information Technology) - check it out!)
I hope to get outside more this upcoming week before it gets too cold. With the leaves changing on campus, autumn is in full swing here in the Upper Valley. I'll be sure to include more pictures for next week's blog!
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