Columnist: Not just a number

When I was looking at colleges, the small class sizes and personal relationships with professors were two of the things that attracted me to UW-Eau Claire.

As I am nearing the end of my college years, the personal relationships with professors still holds true.

“For this professor to remember me proved that I must really be somebody.”

During the first week of classes this semester, I ran into a professor I had my first semester of college for English 110 – five years ago. Yes, I really am that old.

This particular professor remembered my name, my major and that I will be graduating soon. He has said hi to me during passing ever since I had that English class with him. But we never actually stopped and had a conversation until this semester.

What was most surprising to me was the fact that I had this professor for only one class and it was so long ago. Plus, I didn’t make daily contributions to the class discussions. I only spoke when he called on me, which wasn’t very often.

In addition, every student is required to take English 110, unless he or she passes the competency test and can skip it. That’s a lot of students every semester and an even larger number during the course of five years.

But it’s not just me he remembers. My roommate had him for the same class the semester after I did. Every time he sees her on campus he says hello to her. He knows her first and last name.

As I finished my walk up the hill, I realized how I’m not just a number here. For this professor to remember me proved that I must really be somebody.

I expect professors in the department of my major to know who I am. But not professors from other departments in which I’m taking a class just to fill a graduation requirement.

This is very important at higher education institutions. Professors and other faculty members at Eau Claire are very good at making each student feel like somebody.

According to the university’s Web site, the average class size is 28 students and the total university enrollment is 10,636 students.

Kristina Anderson, the interim admissions director, said for this academic year the faculty-student ratio is 1/21.

Last fall, the percentage of undergraduate class sections with more than 100 students was only 5 percent, Anderson said. For lower division classes, 46 percent had less than 30 students per section. Also, 63 percent of upper division classes had less than 30 students per section.

Anderson said these numbers are similar to other universities in the UW System. Universities aren’t seeing the effects of the budget cuts too much right now but more likely will see them in the future.

It is because of these small class sizes and small enrollment that students don’t become just a number.

More importantly, it is up to the individual professors and faculty members to make that extra effort to develop a personal relationship with their students.

I realize that professors have a lot of students in their classes, and I don’t expect them to remember the name of every student in every class they teach.

But this English 110 professor made that extra effort and it really made my day – as silly as that may sound.

With the budget problems facing the UW System, Eau Claire has chosen to cut the number of sections offered for some courses and to increase class sizes.

On the school Web site it states, “With small class sizes, students develop personal relationships with experienced professors.”

This is part of what makes Eau Claire the well-known university it has become. To keep this reputation, professors are going to have to make that extra effort more than ever to develop that personal level with their students.

Personal relationships between professors and students not only improve a student’s self esteem, but I think they would make a student try harder in that particular class.

It’s like repaying a favor. When a professor has made the effort to recognize a student, that student will most likely want to repay the professor by trying to do well in that class and learn the material.

In turn, the student makes the most of the education received at Eau Claire.

As the time for me to leave this university nears, I hope that the small class sizes and personal relationships between professors, faculty and students remain. I believe that is one of the main reasons I have enjoyed my five years as a Blugold.

Schultz is a senior print journalism and sociology major and the managing editor of The Spectator.