“Don’t forget to come to office hours” seems to be a popular lecture sign-off for most college professors — usually because students really do need the reminder. Students struggling with assignments should not be the only ones taking advantage of UT’s high-caliber staff. If we truly want to maximize our college experience, we need to visit our professors and TAs during office hours and cultivate personal relationships with the people who can influence our futures.
History professor H.W. Brands views office hours as an opportunity for his students to talk about whatever they want. Whether that be feedback on an assignment, advice on switching majors, future career advice or even personal issues, Brands wants students to know that teachers are more than just the people who stand at the front of the class. Students can do themselves a favor and make this campus of more than 50,000 feel smaller and more connected by going to office hours.
According to Brands, it is easy for students within a large university to become anonymous. Office hours allow students to build the personal connections with faculty that make the college experience that much more valuable.
The prestige and quality of UT faculty is unrivaled throughout the state and renowned throughout the world. Potential one-on-one time with our esteemed faculty seems like a no-brainer, yet professors still spend hours alone in their offices waiting for students to show up. If students want better grades, better connections with professors and therefore better opportunities in the future, they need to go to office hours.
“One piece of advice that I heard long ago and have been giving out ever since is that when you’re a college student, it’s almost as good to major in a particular professor as it is in a particular subject,” Brands said. “If you find a professor you find inspiring, take all the classes you can from that professor and go talk to the professor in office hours.”
Visiting professors during office hours can be nerve-wracking, though. That’s why Heloisa Wilkerson, a journalism graduate student and TA, acknowledges the advantages of having office hours with TAs if students are intimidated by their professors.
“(Professors) are usually older; they are more of an authoritative figure,” Wilkerson said. “When coming to talk to TAs, we are more informal, and I think it’s easier for students to discuss some things and actually ask questions that they would be afraid of asking the professor.”
Office hours have been an essential part of higher education for some time now, yet students can barely get themselves to the actual offices. Our professors and TAs could very easily be the people who land us our next job, secure our next internship or get us into graduate school. The benefits that exist, yet are unpursued by students, are too good to pass up. So just go.
Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism sophomore from College Station.