What I Wish I Knew: Get to Know Your Professors

by Rebekah Bruckner '18

One of the most important lessons I learned in college is why you should get to know your professors, starting your first year. On my first day of college, I was intimidated, afraid, and unsure of what to expect. I knew classes would be challenging and heard that professors were often extremely strict. I graduated from a medium-sized Christian high school with small classes and caring teachers. I had come to expect a certain level of relationship with those who taught me, but I began to realize that college might not provide me with this. Yet when classes began, I quickly realized I was mistaken.

Many of my college professors started class with an icebreaker and conversation to encourage relationship building between students. One even invited the entire class to his home for a game night. As the professors gave us opportunities to become acquainted with one another, they also encouraged us to come to their office hours and to schedule meeting times. These interactions made me grateful to be attending a Christian university with small classes.

Make the Most of Your Experience

“Relationships that last from freshman to senior year are the ones that are deepest,” said Christine Kern, Ph.D., in Azusa Pacific’s Department of English. “Schools like APU are worth it–for professors and students–because of the relationships.” This claim rings true in Kern’s life as she regularly invites her students over for Christmas parties, lunch, or dessert. As a writing professor, she is particularly inclined to know her students well; it allows her to help students discover their obsessions and quirks, some of the best things to write about. Kern regularly sacrifices her time outside of the classroom and the office to interact with her students, often by email, so that she can help them perfect their stories. She urges students to take advantage of meeting with professors during their office hours: “Talk through a class project or something going on in your life. Make it a goal to visit every professor you have during their office hours. We are here because we love interacting with students.”

Cultivating these relationships with my professors gave me the confidence to interact in class and ask questions when I didn’t understand what we were learning. I made it a priority to stay after class to have conversations with my professors and visit their office hours when I could. These relationships continue to play a significant role in my college life as my professors encourage me.

Ask for Advice

“I make it a point to get to know my professors early on in the semester because it’s necessary to have an ally on the inside,” said Natalie Rehfeld ‘18, sociology major. “They have a lot of experience with the workings of college and can be a valuable resource when you need direction.” Especially as a new student, forming relationships with professors is important. During my time at APU, when difficult things happened in my life outside of the classroom, my professors have been incredibly supportive. In my first semester of college as a student-athlete, I got a concussion at practice. My professors prayed for me and were surprisingly willing to extend due dates for projects, excuse me from class, and allow me to take tests at a separate time. I was amazed by their generosity and have been surprised by similar situations throughout my experience.

“I have looked to my sociology professors first when I need advice, guidance, or encouragement to keep working hard,” said Rehfeld. “They know me well and are able to point out my strengths and weaknesses.” Although it may seem intimidating to reach out to your professors, it will be well worth it as you may end up developing a relationship that will stretch past the confines of college. Get to know your professors!

Rebekah Bruckner '18 is an editorial and public relations intern in the Office of University Relations.