What makes a stellar prof
We asked a few students at our colleges to tell us what makes for a good professor. Their answers demonstrate the importance of student-faculty interaction in helping students learn and succeed. Ask any alumni you know and you’ll hear similar points; they look back and point out the importance of the time they spent with professors — both in and outside the classroom. (Yes, our colleges put a particular emphasis on this, ensuring classes remain small and taught by professors.)
Have your own thoughts on what makes for a professor extraordinaire? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet about it using @mnprivcolleges.
Hamline University '17
The biggest factor for me regarding what makes a great professor is availability outside of office hours. I know that most professors are very busy and have their own lives, but they still find time to help out. At Hamline, our class size is smaller and more personal. But even when we have a larger class, professors make themselves even more available to students. I also think that professors that adapt their methods and teach material in different ways is big, especially in accounting. Not everyone can learn the same way.
Another big thing is seeing your professors outside the classroom. I run into a professor of mine at a coffee shop and we can connect and have meaningful conversations. I invite my professors to different events on campus that I might be hosting and they show up. If their schedule allows, they come. They are active on campus.
Last semester, I was having a rough time with some family issues. I normally don’t explain personal things to professors but it seemed necessary. My professor was not only extremely understanding and supportive but he also had a similar story. He shared his story and reassured me, giving me the extra time that I needed.
University of St. Thomas '16
Major: Instrumental music education
I would say that a good professor is someone who is personal and genuinely cares about their students' success and well-being. While studying to be a teacher one thing that has really spoke to me and made a lot of sense is that as a teacher (in my case music teacher) we are not teaching music, but teaching people. At the end of the day it is really what is going to matter to those students and separate those professors who understand the subject matter and those who can actually teach it.
Another thing that I think is really important for a good professor is those who can make their subject matter applicable to everyday life. We are learning more by getting out and experiencing the world in the boundaries of our future careers than by sitting in a classroom behind textbooks. Professors who understand this and add real-life experiences into their curriculum while teaching their subject matter will really help their students be successful in the future.
I feel like much of my learning at St. Thomas has been facilitated by these types of professors. I know that my professors genuinely care about me and my future as a teacher. My learning is done through these real-life experiences where I am out in the classrooms learning how to be a teacher from those who are already doing it. My professors are making every minute of my classes matter by really preparing me for a career as a music teacher.
St. Olaf College '17
I enjoy it when classes include open discussion, in-class activities, and projects, rather than simply reading material and hearing a lecture about it. I am also very much a visual learner, so when professors include Power Points or videos, that helps me to stay engaged; even if the class does not allow for discussion. I think it is also important for the professor to be animated during a lecture. It is much more engaging to listen to someone talk about something that they are excited about than a professor who lectures with little energy.
Finally, I believe a good professor is accessible to students either via email or office hours for any questions or concerns that students may have. I think all of the above qualities make for a good professor because they command the attention and respect of students.