Faculty connections can transform a student’s experience in college. For Jillian Kelly, it all started with a van.
Jillian was participating in an early move-in event for the Academies (precursor to the ELN). The students were going on field adventures and the faculty were in charge of driving the vans full of students to their destinations. Well, Prof. Colleen Culleton had some trouble driving the van, and Jillian decided to step up and help her, and in Jillian’s words, “ever since then we’ve been pretty tight.”
Though Jillian’s relationship with Prof. Colleen Culleton had humble beginnings, she managed to build on their relationship over the following years, through attending office hours, participating in Prof. Culleton’s sophomore seminar and bubble-tea outings. “I made my way into her life by participating and actually wanting to learn more…She wanted to know about my life and I wanted to know about her life so we just kept in touch.” By making an effort to keep in contact with Prof. Culleton, Jillian was able to develop a meaningful relationship with a professor who had a profound impact on her college career.
For instance, when Jillian was nearing graduation and was just shy of the credits she needed, Prof. Culleton saved the day by having Jillian be her TA for an undergraduate seminar. They made a great team: Jillian helped with the design and had the idea to do a poster session, and Prof. Culleton brought the major class themes and taught Jillian and her students to think globally, not just locally. In Jillian’s words, “She makes you think about the things you don’t want to think about but need to.”
If there’s anything to learn from Jillian’s example, it’s that faculty are not to be feared, and they can become true partners in your education. Prof. Culleton helped Jillian through some tough times at UB, but now Jillian has finished strong—she graduated in December and plans to attend graduate school for student affairs/higher education in the fall in order to achieve her goal of making more inclusive housing on college campuses. “[Prof. Culleton] helped me set my goals and reach them. She’s honestly the reason I’m actually graduating…It was nice to know that one person, with everything that goes on. She’s not only my professor, she’s my friend.”
Professors aren’t just the people you see in lecture three times a week; they are experts in their fields who can be looked to for guidance and support. They can be mentors, even friends, and have the networks to connect you with others who can help you on your academic and professional journeys. Professors want you to be successful both in and outside the classroom, so they are valuable resources to utilize.
Accessing Un-Office Hours through the ELN can be a first step in making connections like the one Jillian made with Prof. Culleton. It’s a casual place to start a conversation about any of your goals, so embrace the opportunity for new connections with professors by visiting us in 17 Norton! You can also visit ELN's Mentor Network to learn about our mentors, including Prof. Culleton, and find out when they will be holding Un-Office Hours in the ELN.
Written by Amanda Hellwig ‘19