By Samuel Gomorra, Staff Reporter
Professors are an essential role in the lives of their students, and their experience and wisdom that they can pass on is probably the most important reason for teaching.
Dr. Brandon Awbrey, assistant professor of psychology, believes that a change in culture is allowing professors to pursue more personal roles in students' lives. "The tradition of university life is that professors were much higher up in the food chain than the student. The relationship was very hierarchical. As our culture has changed, the tradition has changed also. There is still a hierarchy present as students are asking us to not only teach but to evaluate," Dr. Awbrey said.
While the gap between students and friends has certainly closed, it is important to be careful how we classify the relationship. "Our culture is much more open with professors taking on a mentor role. I would never use the word ‘friend’ as it is never going to be a peer relationship," Dr. Awbrey said.
There are certain boundaries that must be maintained between professors and students to ensure equality and wellbeing.
"With a friendship there is an ability for a person to be on a more peer to peer level. If you see a person as your friend, you can make certain demands from them and it be okay. As an instructor, however, I have to be able to behave equitably to all my students. I have to maintain professional boundaries and prevent it from becoming a friendship to be fair to all my students. With a student, there are things that I am going to do but there are certain things that I will not do," Dr. Awbrey explained.
The relationships that students establish with professors does not need to end simply at graduation. It can be a lifelong mentorship that is good and beneficial for both the student and the professor. "I try not to engage current students on social media, but when you graduate, I would like to be able to keep up with your life and remain available to you if you need something," Dr. Awbrey said.
Students should make sure that they take the opportunity that they have while attending school to establish meaningful relationships with their professors. It will be helpful not only when applying for graduate school and jobs, but also throughout one's life.
"I think there are plenty of opportunities for students to connect with professors more personally after they graduate, but while they are at school, they are always welcomed to come by during office hours. We enjoy getting to know our students and for them to know us," Dr. Awbrey said.
Try talking to your professors outside of class and see where that leads you in terms of a relationship. "I still connect with my mentors on Facebook and meet them at conferences and go out for meals to catch up. We even talk about each other's families," Dr. Awbrey said.