By Lynn Wooten, the David J. Nolan Dean and Professor of Management and Organizations at Dyson
Some of us begin college knowing exactly what we want to study. We apply to the undergraduate programs that we believe will prepare us for a future we have already mapped out for ourselves, and off we go to first conquer our studies and then the world. For others, the path is not quite as clear. Perhaps we have somewhat of an idea of what we want to do, but most of the time we rely on the academic self-discovery we experience as students—and the influence of our professors—to help us better define how we envision our future.
I use the pronoun ‘we’ because I, too, consider myself a student—a lifelong learner. I am always looking for opportunities to expand my skills and learn something new.
Throughout my training to become a professor, and during the course of my life, I have been inspired by those who dedicate their lives to teaching others. In my new role as dean of the Dyson School, I have been reflecting on the positive influence my teachers and professors have had on my life, while also thinking about the opportunities our students have to connect with their professors.
At Dyson, our faculty are not only passionate about their subject matter and research focus areas, they also truly care about the success of our students. This is evident in their relentless drive toward helping our students be their best selves both scholastically and personally.
College is the one time in life when you have unfettered access to people who are experts in their field, are highly knowledgeable across industries and understand the inner workings of higher education.
Here are some ways you can better connect with your professors this semester and beyond.
Take advantage of office hours.
I know you hear this often, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of visiting your professors during office hours. If you do not need tutoring or help with an assignment, use the time to talk to your professor about your goals or ways you can improve upon your approach to class assignments.
Identify common interests.
Whether over coffee or during a study break, casual conversations outside of the classroom are a great way to learn more about Dyson’s faculty. Ask them about their background, how they got into their areas of focus, and what excites them most about the work they are doing. Do not be afraid to ask questions and seek career or academic advice. There is always something to learn from your professors, but you won’t know if you never take the time to connect.
Stay in touch after you graduate.
Your professors have dedicated their lives to teaching and developing others. By getting to know them while you are here at Cornell, you create connections and a network of support that does not have to dissipate when you walk across the stage at graduation. Stay connected, let your professors know what you are up to, and seek their trusted advice when faced with life’s big decisions.
It is no surprise to those who know me well that I have chosen a career in higher education. You see, teaching is my family’s business. I come from a family of professors and teachers. As a young girl, my favorite toys were my chalkboard and books.
As I got older, I knew I wanted to teach. I felt it was the best way for me to make a positive difference in the lives of others. My first teaching opportunity was at a land-grant university with a mission not dissimilar from that of the Dyson School. It was then that I knew my path would lead me to a career as an educator, and my professors were instrumental in helping me get there.
Regardless of where you are in your academic journey, our professors at Dyson want to help you achieve your dreams. I am proud to work with this group of dedicated educators, who are renowned in their respective areas of expertise and who care deeply about developing our students into leaders who will use business for a better world.
Take time to reach out to a professor today. It is a connection that could make all the difference.
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