Living in Owens Hall: Confessions of a professor disciple
February 16, 2011
Perhaps my largest source of ridicule comes from my professor relationships at Oklahoma Baptist University; apparently it’s not typical to spend hours a week in Owens or to have your teacher’s office hours memorized. Regardless, I love this aspect of my life.
Our professors have provided some of the richest moments of my college years and taught me much about myself—and they’re just pretty cool people to be around. There are three ways that encompass how I’ve experienced this phenomenon:
1. Connecting outside of the classroom: I spend a lot of time with professors under unusual circumstances. From babysitting to Wendell Berry readings on weekday evenings, I often encounter them outside of the lecture hall. I’ve played Foosball with Dr. Hagen—and lost miserably.
I’ve washed dishes with Dr. Sanders after eating dinner together with our church college group. And I’ve essentially become an adopted daughter in the Nagle family; part of this role entails trick-or-treating and Christmas tree decorating.
Reviving many childhood traditions as a budding adult continually reminds me not to grow up too much or too fast. Many other moments and holidays with some of my favorite professors have laid the groundwork for some interesting stories.
2. Discovering that they are, in fact, real people: I got to enjoy Dr. Myers’ poetry reading last semester. It was a wonderful opportunity to see what makes him tick outside of class.
Dr. Hagen and I talk movies and Dr. Armond and I talk House. Seeing profs on Facebook is always interesting, especially when they “like” your status. It seems easy to forget in class that they have real lives and real passions beyond Dante and ancient Greece.
I love the moments when we find a common ground, and I see the glimmer in their eye that conveys they see bits of who they were when they were “my age,” which may or may not have been so long ago.
3. Shedding tears and sharing life: On many occasions, I’ve had coffee and talked life with these incredible people.
The communal idea of ‘breaking bread’ together in Acts 2 is perhaps the best way I know to describe this. One of my favorite memories from New Orleans was when Dr. Youmans came down and made time to share beignets with me in a city we both love. Professor Green-Nagle and I always enjoy sending the kids out of the room for “boring grown-up stuff” so we can have candid conversation.
And on more occasions than I can remember, I have flooded Dr. Ridenour’s office with tears and emotional tirades about where my life is going and how God reveals Himself in the process, often waiting for him curled up on my favorite couch on the third floor.
All these moments have shaped so much of my vision of who I am becoming and who I want to be in ten, twenty or thirty years. Words cannot describe them.
This makes me wonder why so many students are ‘afraid’ of their professors.
After mocking me, my friends usually say that they wish they could have this, that they could keep from feeling nervous when they enter the hallowed ground of the professor’s office.
As someone who has caused more than her share of awkward interruptions, I can confidently say that the attempt is worth the result. In my experience, our professors thrive on being there for their students and sharing their wisdom with us; they love to know that we want to connect with them, even if it’s just about their favorite bands or why Dead Poets Society is the greatest movie ever made (though they also have civ exams and papers to grade).
Most of them became professors because they enjoy these relationships, and it isn’t as hard to pursue them as you might imagine.
So go to Owens Hall (feel free to ask me where a particular office is). Ask for a book recommendation before you ask for a reference letter.
And take advantage of the opportunities that descend upon you to get to know our local mentors; you may be pleasantly surprised at how much they resemble actual people.