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Taking advantage of office hours

| Tuesday, September 5, 2017

During one of my classes last week, my professor briefly mentioned that there was a meeting that might interfere with his office hours, so he wanted to poll the room and see if anyone was planning on being there.

No one raised their hands.

We then spontaneously ushered into a conversation about the role of office hours at Notre Dame, and why there seems to be a stigma surrounding the idea of talking to one’s professors outside of class. My professor asked what the reasoning was behind the lack of interest, and while some talked of bad experiences and time constraints, really no one gave a good answer.

That’s because there isn’t a good one.

The reality is that the majority of students view office hours as a resource of necessity. Get a bad grade on a test? Office hours. Can’t figure out the homework? Office hours. Need a letter of recommendation? You guessed it. It may be twisted, but it’s a reality that exists. Students at Notre Dame do have a lot on their plate, and for many, school is simply a piece to the puzzle. There’s always talk of building relationships with professors or pursuing academic interests outside of the classroom, and while I certainly think it adds a whole new dimension to scholarly work, for the students that don’t see the “scholarly” part of the equation, there really isn’t a need to pursue it.

But my professor brought up a great point. For the vast majority of professors, students are a huge priority. If one comes with a question or concern, they’d be happy to take time to answer them — it’s why they are mandated to set aside time for this situation. For students however, just because they are optional doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. Regardless of it pertaining to class or not, students should be utilizing one of the best resources available to them in a college setting to help answer questions that interest or trouble them.

Learning is a lifelong pursuit, and for four short years, a college student has an incredible opportunity to learn a whole lot just by talking to the experts. While only a fraction of the undergraduate body will end up earning doctorates in fields of academia, the lessons we learn and fields of interest we pursue now still have intrinsic and inherent value.

Now, I’ve definitely fallen into the same trend as many of my peers have done. In the times I have gone to office hours over the past three years, only a handful have been to explore questions outside of lecture, and they’ve always been class-related. Moving forwards, however, I hope to change that outlook. Instead of viewing office hours as a resource to help my grade, I hope to utilize such a tremendous opportunity to not only learn about interesting things, but also to get to better know the incredibly smart and dedicated faculty at Notre Dame.

One of my biggest takeaways from my time at Notre Dame so far has been the incredible amount of intelligence and drive that people here possess. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by many of my fellow classmates and friends who manage to balance their schoolwork and social life with career and extracurricular aspirations, but sometimes it’s okay to slow down a little and enjoy the ride. Life isn’t always about looking ahead to the next deadline or exam, sometimes it’s not only good to pursue things that aren’t necessary, it’s also important. For me, a college student, appreciating office hours is one of the first steps.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby is a junior PLS/Economics double major from Smithtown, New York.

Contact Tobias