A student leaves after advising. Another rushes to turn in the last project of the semester. A third asks about the final exam. Just when it looks like there will be a moment of peace, someone knocks on the door and wonders if he or she could get advice on an issue.
“We go through various roles when we teach. Sometimes you just need a teacher, sometimes they may be having a bad day and need kind of a friend, or sometimes they need someone to help them decide what to do with their lives, so you kind of become this kind of a career coach,” said Dr. Julia Mortyakova, chair of The W’s Music department. “Whatever the student needs at the time.”
Welcome to the weeks leading up to graduation, from the eyes of a faculty member.
At The W, more than 100 faculty members are tasked with teaching classes, advising students and occasionally helping with personal issues. The small size of the university provides plenty of opportunity for students and professors to develop deeper relationships with one another.
“I think every faculty member who’s at all invested in mentoring students is going to have some relationships, but I think at The W, we have even more of those, because so many faculty know and really work with so many of our students,” said Dr. Kim Whitehead, director of Honors College and associate professor of English and Religious Studies.
For Dr. Kimberly Dorsey, a professor of management, it was one of the reasons she chose to teach at a small university. Dorsey said she enjoys the interaction with students in her face-to-face classes, as well as being the kind of professor who students feel comfortable coming to outside of class.
“To see the faces of those [students] accomplish something they’ve been working hard for or to know that it’s happening because I put something in them – it’s a good feeling,” said Dorsey.
For Mortyakova, one of the benefits to teaching at The W is knowing students get the focus they need to succeed. No student is forgotten or left out.
“It’s more than just, ‘I teach you this, and then you’re done, and then you leave,’” said Mortyakova.
“Sometimes we see potential in them that they don’t even see in themselves,” said Dorsey.
However, students must leave eventually. Graduation, while a huge accomplishment for any student, can be an emotional time for students and faculty alike. In some cases, that emotion is excitement and pride.
“It certainly makes me happy to see that they’ve reached their goals, that they’ve made it through some challenges in a lot of cases to reach those goals,” said Dr. Holleen Krogh, chair of the Department of Psychology and Family Studies at The W.
In other cases, graduation can be bittersweet or sentimental.
“It’s emotional because you know that they’ve struggled and they’ve persisted to get where they are,” said Dorsey.
No matter what the reaction, graduation remains an important milestone.
“Seeing the culmination of all these years of hard work, and hopefully they’re moving on to finding something to do, whether it’s further study or a job they really enjoy doing, and that what they’ve learned here is applicable to it as well... that’s really the main thing,” said Krogh.
Graduation is also not the end.
“I think graduation is just the beginning,” said Mortyakova. “You look forward to see what happens next.”
Many faculty members like to keep in touch with former students through social media and email.
“I typically don’t accept Facebook requests until after graduation,” said Dorsey.
“As gratifying as it is to see where they are when they graduate, where they are at two years or five years or seven years out is sometimes so – I’m so amazed,” said Whitehead.
“I really care about what a student is going to do after graduation,” said Mortyakova.
Alumni also get to visit faculty when they return to Columbus.
“Sometimes they drop by,” said Krogh. “Some of them come into town to visit family, so we’re more likely to see folks in those cases. Sometimes they come by for Homecoming.”
In the meantime, new students arrive to begin their own journey.
“For a semester or two, you miss seeing those faces, passing them in the hallway or having them in a class,” said Dorsey. “But then there’s a new crop, there’s a new batch, and so you know, you start it all over again.”
“One of the things I like about the academic environment is that you start with a fresh slate each semester,” said Krogh.
Another student will need help with an assignment. Another class is waiting to be taught. Someone else needs advice.
Welcome to a new semester.