Ghavri: Get to Know Your Professor

by Anmol Ghavri | 8/11/16 10:30pm

One of the deciding factors in my choice to attend Dartmouth two years ago was the intimacy of Hanover, the campus, classes and social life. Dartmouth’s “personality” is apparent from Dimensions in April, to Trips in August, to orientation in September. Coming from an impersonal suburban New York town and moving to Hanover, where I experienced the intimacy of Dartmouth was the most profound, and at times uncomfortable, part of my freshman fall.

Hanover is Dartmouth and Dartmouth is Hanover. In the Dartmouth experience, academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, social life and Greek life are all linked. Everyone acclimates to “living” Dartmouth’s intimacy in their own way, emphasizing some areas over others. For me, some of my most productive experiences of Dartmouth’s intimacy have been my interactions with faculty. To get the most out of Dartmouth’s world class faculty, you should take advantage of the small class sizes and plentiful opportunities to interact personally with professors outside of class.

Coming to Dartmouth, you may or may not know what you want to study. Even if you think you do, this may change over your time here. Regardless, during your freshman year, you will most likely take a diverse array of courses — a writing class and a first-year seminar, distributive requirements and classes of interest, possibly a language. Your writing and first-year seminar courses and language course (if you choose to take one) will be quite small, facilitating daily interaction with peers and your professors. While many introductory major courses in popular departments will be large, mid- to upper-level classes in various departments are also quite small. Regardless of the class size, going to your professor’s office hours during your freshman fall is essential. During this time, one can ask for help, seek general guidance or just talk about the course or a mutually interesting subject.

You may have a particular interest in the subject or the professor’s research. In these circumstances, office hours can become less of a place to seek help in class and more so one to discuss your long-term academic goals. A professor can act as an informal advisor, directing you to other courses, professors and resources. Indeed, come your sophomore year, having an academic advisor of your own choosing is incredibly helpful. Having a faculty member whose subject area you are interested in and someone who is aware of your academic strengths and weaknesses will help you as you decide what you want to major in and work toward completing a degree. If you decide to go on one of Dartmouth’s language or foreign study programs or apply for an internship or graduate program, having a professor who can attest to your character in a recommendation letter or potentially connect you to an employer will do you wonders.

If you are particularly interested in a professor’s area of research or want to learn more, ask them if they would like to grab a meal. The dean’s office pays for professor-student lunches at Pine in the Hanover Inn, and student groups sponsor meals at restaurants around town. For me personally, the opportunity to sit down and talk with a professor about an academic interest more informally, as well as your hopes, aspirations and background is an invaluable and unique aspect of Dartmouth. If you are interested in research, Dartmouth faculty love involving students in their work. In this way, you can get involved in a professor’s studies, further your expertise and gain experience in scholarship and research. Just ask! If you decide to work on a senior thesis, you will have already developed a foundation for advising and the knowledge of how to conduct research.

Even if you are not interested in research or going on a study abroad, you should get to know your professors simply because they are typically interesting, kind and caring people. Being able to interact so personally with faculty is a privilege all Dartmouth students have, and one that not all students take advantage of. Even in the few classes with teaching assistants, professors often go out of their way to make themselves available to their students, with many taking an interest in their students’ well-being and success beyond the classroom. For me, interacting with Dartmouth faculty has been one of the defining features of my Dartmouth experience, and something I hope all incoming ’20s take advantage of.