By David Podos
So here it comes, yet another semester, and whether it’s your first or last you should endeavor to begin or end your academic journey on a high note of success. To do so requires work. For some students their academic studies come easier than others. They also have sound time management skills and know how to maximize those skills to increase academic success. For others they are fortunate enough that they don’t have to work, so more energy can be set aside for studying, for family life, and personal life. For others, well, things are not as easy, they struggle to manage their time effectively. Of course there are many reasons why a student’s time can be used up very quickly, leaving them less than satisfactory time for studies or anything else for that matter. In my experience I have seen a drastic uptick in the number of students who need to work, and I’m not just talking about part time here, but full time as well, while trying to juggle a college schedule, making it extremely challenging to find any time to balance family and personal life, needless to say anything about studying.
So what can a student do? Depending on circumstances there is actually quite a lot a student can do to increase overall academic success. While it would be impractical to expect any college to “fix” all of a student’s problems, there are a number of student services that are offered on college campuses to at least make life a little better. For instance, all colleges have tutoring labs that are facilitated by either faculty and or (students) who provide peer to peer support in academic development in a number of subjects such as English, Writing and Math. Of course as mentioned, you have to have the time to attend. At Mohawk Valley Community College where I instruct/advise, our tutoring schedule is designed to accommodate students who simply could not make it during a regular school day, offering evening and even weekend tutoring sessions. In addition our students can connect with their Academic Adviser/College Adviser for further assistance throughout the typical school day, and/or see an adviser for an evening consult (which I am happy to say that Mohawk Valley Community College offers as well). Students need to make inquires on their respective campuses regarding these important services and take advantage of what is being offered. I have personally seen struggling students turn themselves around in a manner of only one semester by attending tutoring labs and having conversations with their Academic/College Advisers. But, there is another piece of the puzzle that is equally important for academic success and that is your relationship with your Professor/Instructor.
In a previous Op-Ed I wrote about being “stuck” with your Professor through-out the semester, whether for the better or the worse. Fact is, your relationship is important, and hopefully you will be “stuck” with someone you like and can relate to. In any event, all Instructors need to offer office hours for each class they instruct, and this is the other piece of the puzzle, and in my opinion such an important one.
Depending on your Professor’s office hours, the time factor becomes critical. I have often heard from a number of my students that they want to come but my office hours are not conducive to their schedules. Of course it is impossible for any adviser, tutor, or Professor to always be available and accommodate their schedules in regards to their students’ schedules.
Even so, students need to know the importance of office hours and to take it seriously. For an additional introspective into office hours I had the pleasure to interview one of my colleagues, Jerry Livadas, Instructor of Political Science. The following is that interview.
DP- Jerry thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for the September issue of Campus News and particularly your insights into the importance of office hours. Before we begin I would like to go over your bio for our readers. Jerry what is your professional background, how long have you instructed for higher education and what colleges have you instructed for?
JL- Well first off David it is my pleasure to be interviewed by you. In regards to my professional background I am the former Deputy Secretary of State for New York State serving under the Rockefeller and Cuomo administrations. I have over two decades of experience teaching in higher education and have had the privilege to instruct at Ohio State Community College, Herkimer County Community College, and Mohawk Valley Community College, where I presently conduct my teaching.
DP- How important do you think office hours are in regards to academic assistance for students in general?
JL- I think office hours are very important for the academic success of students. The main reason being it supports the instructor/student relationship. Also, it offers the student opportunities to seek more information and details as it pertains to academics and more specifically to the course being taught than can be available during the regular classroom session. The instructor also has the opportunity to advise and counsel the student as to not only the subject matter but to offer ideas or thoughts as to enhancing perhaps study habits, or offering ways to enhance the students’ understanding of the curriculum.
DP- Do your students see office hours as important?
JL- Yes, my students that come under their own volition see that office hours are important and benefit.
DP- How do you convey to your students the importance of office hours?
JL- Well of course it is in my syllabus, and on the first day of classes I spend a good deal of time going over my syllabi. I also remind them throughout the semester that I am available for consultation.
DP- I know it can be difficult for many faculty to meet with students outside of their regular posted office hours; that said, are you able to meet with your students outside of your normal office hours?
JL- Yes. It is also important to have office hours by appointment, or, as best as possible have alternative hours available for the student.
DP- Jerry, thanks for your time and insights into a very important service that we offer our students. I appreciate your hard work and dedication to do whatever you can to assist our students towards academic success.
JL- It has my pleasure, David. Thank you.
David L. Podos is an adjunct instructor for the Center for Social Sciences, Business and Information Sciences at MVCC.