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What Parents—and Students—Should Know about Linfield Professors

Dear Linfield parents and parents of prospective students,

Before coming to Linfield, all faculty members have taught elsewhere at the college level. However, we have all come to Linfield because we believe in the college’s mission and in the relationship that exists between faculty and students here. Having such a common purpose, we faculty maintain cordial and productive professional relationships (and very often close personal friendships) with each other and model responsible intellectual and social behavior for the students. We are also engaged as scholars regionally, nationally, and often internationally in our professional disciplines. That engagement brings direct and tangible benefits to our teaching.

The Professor/Student Relationship

Linfield’s reputation as a strong teaching institution derives from the faculty’s need to maintain strong professional relationships with colleagues and to engage in a sustained way with scholarly discourse.  When we are not in the classroom, we might be working in the library or our offices, or elsewhere in our responsibility for the college’s academic program. Every professor has office hours distributed throughout the week, and our expectation is that students will make use of them. Whereas in high school it is usually not “cool” to go see a teacher, at Linfield students soon learn that a substantial part of their education takes place in one-on-one interaction with faculty, typically in faculty offices, in laboratories, on field trips, or during our intensive January-term courses.

Primary to our calling as teacher-scholars is the expectation that we interact closely with the students as they devise their academic programs and continue to pursue their professional dreams. First-year students are assigned an advisor, who helps them to choose courses compatible with their needs and interests and with Linfield’s curricular requirements. That faculty member serves as their guide and troubleshooter throughout the crucial first semester and usually until the end of the first year. During the first semester they also interact with other faculty in their individual courses.

Making the Most of Time with Professors

On the first day of class each professor hands out a syllabus for the course, which includes the course schedule and expectations for student performance as well as information about student-professor communication. This might include office hours and location, email address, or home phone numbers.  For example, a professor will list office hours and location and email address; some professors will even volunteer their home telephone numbers. If a student wants to meet with a professor but cannot make one of the posted office hours, an arrangement can usually be made to meet at another time. But students should be aware that when we are not in class or holding office hours, we generally are at work in our offices—planning classes, tutoring, answering email, or working on the reading and writing that are an essential part of our professional lives. A typical Linfield professor spends about 13 hours each week in the classroom, but duties associated with that class work bring the total to more like 55 hours, with preparation taking place both at school and at home.

Thoughtful Linfield students have learned that they can benefit most from visits to professors’ offices if they are well prepared. That is, they might have specific questions about course reading or about a homework or lab assignment that seemed unclear. They might want to pursue some ideas about a discussion from class or discuss a topic for a term paper. Perhaps they have questions about a test grade or about their general performance in a course. In these instances it is best to share the nature of the question; after all, we might need to prepare ourselves for such a meeting as well.

The Classroom and Beyond

Questions sometimes go far beyond these, however, and often faculty and students agree to schedule lunch or a mid-afternoon cup of tea together in a neutral setting.  These questions sometimes include, How did professors decide on their careers? Is it wise to change a major if another academic program seems more interesting—and what might the parents say? What is graduate school all about? How might study abroad affect a certain major program? How do I devise an attractive project for a Fulbright fellowship after graduation? 

The information above suggests that Linfield professors can—and do—play an important role in the intellectual growth of our students. We enjoy the interaction with the young people who are searching for the best way to develop meaningful and responsible adult lives. In a special sense the close contact with our students keeps us vital and engaged, whether we are younger professors who interact naturally with our students or more experienced faculty whose lifetime of engagement with students and scholarly discourse has brought us closer to that wisdom we set off to achieve years ago. Whoever we are, our lives are the richer for being active participants in the Linfield experience and for having the privilege of working with these outstanding students.

Peter Richardson
Professor of German
Linfield College