The 2013-2014 academic year recently started and those of us who are college faculty are getting settled in to the routine of lecturing, writing, and grading. This is my 21st straight year on a college campus and my 10th year as a full time college professor. Even though I am still relatively young, I realize that when teaching a similar set of classes every year, it is easy to get complacent. However, it is important to remember that every year presents new students – and new opportunities — to Catholic faculty.
When I was an undergraduate attending a secular college, I was dismayed by how few believing Catholics there were on the faculty. That is one of the reasons I decided to pursue an academic career. As faculty we can cover a lot of ground and have positive impact on many students. I also feel that as Catholics, we have something unique to offer to our respective colleges and universities. Students notice this too. Many of us have stories about eager students who choose to enroll in every class that we offer. Everywhere I have taught, I have had the opportunity to mentor a great group of young people.
As such, at the start of every academic year I give myself the following pep talk. I have found it helpful and I hope you will too.
1) Everyone deserves a first-rate professor — not just people who ended up at Ivy League or Ivy caliber schools.
2) In every class, there are probably students who have family members who are working extra jobs or going into debt to make a college education possible — make sure these students get their money’s worth.
3) Most students will take about 40 classes to earn their undergraduate degree. They will forget most of them. Make your class one they will remember.
4) Your job is more than just a job. It is a ministry. This is true for everyone – but it is especially true for faculty teaching at non-Catholic colleges and universities.
5) You have no idea who God is going to put in front of you this term