Auburn Family

The transition from a high school classroom to the college lecture hall can be intimidating for any first-year student. 

Approaching a college professor for help does not need to be a nerve-racking experience. Despite the myths you might hear, professors care about your success as a student and are willing to give you the tools and advice necessary for you to succeed. 

A few Auburn University professor’s shared their favorite experiences with students and how to use them as a resource for academic success. 

Matthew Kearley, Biological Sciences Instructor and Coordinator II for Biological Sciences

Kearley has been teaching at Auburn for 15 years and is known for bringing humor and current events into his lectures. 

“I had a student who made a D on the first test and they told me that they were going to make an A in my class and I said, good I’m  glad to hear that. I’ll do anything I can to help you learn the material.”  

“They posted up outside my office almost every day and would study and whenever they had a question pop in and ask me.”

“They made a high A on every test after that and went on to make an A in the class. After that, the student changed their major to nursing. I was so impressed by their determination and refusal to quit in the face of that initial adversity.” 

“I would tell students to use your professor’s office hours. Study the material before you go in and determine what you know and don’t understand and then go ask about the things you don’t understand.  Also, go further in advance than a day before the test. That is when we get 90 percent of our traffic. We get 1000’s of e-mails a semester, but a well-prepared student who used office hours always stands out.”

Bob Cochran, Senior Lecturer in the College of Business

Cochran has been a teacher at Auburn for 13 years and mentors many students both in and out of his law classes.

“My favorite thing about teaching is interacting students. I like hearing from them years later after they’ve had some real world experience and how their perspective has changed.”

“College professors are different from high school teachers. Your high school teacher probably knows your parents or is comfortable calling them up or if you miss a couple of assignments they will be all over you in a flash. It just doesn’t happen like that in college.”

“You are a college student now and you have to grow up. If you don’t go to class I’m not going to follow you around which is where a lot of students get the idea that professors don’t care, but they really do.”

“Almost every professor I know, if the student will knock on the door and say they need some help, the professor will bend over backward for them. Help doesn’t mean they are going to give you a cut on what you are supposed to do. Professors want you to fulfill your responsibilities and if you do that and still need help they’ll be there to help you.”

John Carvalho, Associate Professor and Associate Director for Journalism

Commonly known as Dr. C among his students, Carvalho has been teaching at Auburn for 14 years. 

“I love everything about teaching. Teaching is just like journalism. Preparing a lecture is like doing your information gathering for a story. Presenting it is like writing the story and grading is like editing.”

“I like that I have the chance to communicate things to them, particularly the school majors that they’re predisposed to be interested in. When it’s their major, it’s fun that they’re interested and we can have some good back and forth about it.”

“Probably the best thing is when the light comes on for a student and they turn the corner. I had one student at the time I thought she resisting even trying. She turned the corner after our class. She is now a successful, aggressive reporter and talks openly about how much her education helped her."

"When students come in and realize the reward from the work they’re doing and the satisfaction that comes from it that’s probably the best thing.” 

“Particularly in your major, your professor enjoys the mentoring aspect and enjoys the interaction outside of the classroom about a topic. It’s not like you are being weird or a flatterer when you share your enthusiasm for the subject with your professor. Here it’s to be expected. Don’t be afraid to express enthusiasm with your professor. Professors enjoy it more than students think.”

College professors want to help you. They expect you to put in the work and hold yourself accountable, but they are always willing to help a student succeed. All you have to do is ask. 


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