First impressions with professors key to success

Jenna Francis

Every August thousands of new Kent State students attend their first lectures and have their first interactions with college professors.

First interactions with new professors can go many different directions, and depending on how that first conversation goes, those minutes can often shape how the rest of the semester will go.

“My first one on one was with my FYE (First Year Experience) professor and she terrified me,” said senior political science major Samantha Varner. “She was rude and expected me to know things that I had no clue about.”

Not all interactions with professors, however, will be negative.

“I try to present a professional manner or personality but yet I’m also friendly,” said William Kist, associate professor in the Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies Department,

Some students might misread Kist’s friendliness. 

“A couple times it has kind of shocked me when a student has called me by my first name,” Kist said.

How to address professors can be confusing for a lot of students.

“How I address professors depends on how well I know them,” Varner said. “With poli sci I’ve had some of the same professors since freshman year; I address them more casually. For everyone else it’s professor, or doctor if they introduce themselves as that.”

Alexander Seed, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said the student-professor relationship here in the U.S. is much different than it is in the United Kingdom, where he is from. Seed said that in the U.S., students tend to be more formal when speaking to professors.

“I think that it’s super important with our profession that you be very approachable,” he said, for the sake of students being able to ask questions and learn. 

Although Seed thinks being approachable is essential, he said it’s not appropriate that you strike up any kind of relationship with a student.

“I’m friendly, but I wouldn’t say I have friendship with anyone who is working for me,” Seed said, speaking about graduate students and teaching assistants.

Varner said she is more comfortable interacting with professors now that she is older and has been in college for so long. 

“It helps if the professor has a sense of humor,” Varner said “But for the most part, just remember to be kind and kind of a suck up and they’ll be nice.”

Jenna Francis was a beat reporter for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].