Building rapport with professors

As another semester at the University of San Diego nears its end, students begin to say goodbye to professors they have spent countless months getting to know. On a small campus like USD, some students develop close relationships with professors. Many students seem to wonder how they can maintain these professional relationships beyond the classroom post-graduate.

The question of how students should appropriately display their appreciation to professors post-graduation remains. For some, that may mean simple thank you notes for their time. For others, it may be a more personalized gift.

Junior Ava O’Brien said the end of the semester doesn’t mean that all communication has to stop with previous professors.

“I would keep in contact with professors, especially for future jobs or letters of recommendation,” O’Brien said. “Or even if it’s just keeping in contact to let them know where I am.”

According to O’Brien, it isn’t uncommon for students to reach out to former professors to send a quick update.

“I wouldn’t just email a professor to see how they are doing,” O’Brien said. “It would have to relate back to the course because you want to keep the professor-student relationship professional. You don’t want it to be taken the wrong way.”

One of the biggest qualities O’Brien noticed in a professor is the level of support they are willing to offer their students.

According to O’Brien, there are particular qualities professors possess that would make her more prone to give a gift of gratitude at the end of the semester. Some of the qualities she mentioned include making themselves available outside of office hours, being accommodating to students’ schedules, and making sure everyone understands what is expected of them in the classroom.

“I would get a gift for them because they took the time to show that they really care and wants the best for their students,” O’Brien said. “I think an appropriate gift would be like a Starbucks gift card or really any gift card.”

Giving gifts to university professors seems to carry a fine line. O’Brien suggested that an appropriate gift would be something that is regularly used by professors, such as gift cards. However, anything beyond that would be too much according to O’Brien.

Communication studies professor Bradley Bond shared a similar perspective with respect to professor-student rapport. Bond explained that he would find professor-student relationships sensible for his students who are engaged in the classroom, attend office hours, or have worked closely with him on research.

“[For] students who approach me after class or students who engage in the classroom, come to office hours, and then approach me with gift at the end of the semester, it’s logical, it makes sense,” Bond said.

Bond approached the fine line of professor-student rapport with great diligence. He said that he believes each relationship is different and depends fully on context. Bond shared that he asks himself a single question to determine how to proceed.

“Now if a student never talked to me over the course of the semester, never engaged in class, or I never saw them in office hours and then made that effort. It might seem a little disjointed,” Bond said.

One of the perks of keeping in touch is the various social media platforms. These social sites are often used to stay in contact with former students. Bond stated he chats with many former students that he had developed a connection with outside of class through Instagram or Twitter.

“I will have requests just sitting in my inbox until students are in their last semester,” Bond said. “Then I accept. That right of passage from student to alumni does mean something.”

By staying in contact with former students Bond said he hopes that it will encourage recent alumni to stay connected to USD. Bond shared that he believes it will help build a community for alumni by feeling connected to the department.

Junior Khalil Suradi wouldn’t think twice about reaching out to a former professor. Suradi said that he still keeps in contact with past professors for various reasons. He sends them updates on what he’s doing or asks for suggestions on what he should be doing. Ultimately, Suradi shared that he believes it depends on the person.

“I think professors definitely know your intentions and motives for reaching out,” Suradi said. “So I do think they put into consideration a more caring or invested response. I think they actually even enjoy getting that feedback or you reaching out to them, […] because it lets them know that they impacted your life.”

When the semester is said and done, the professor-student relationship doesn’t need to come to an end. Small tokens of appreciation like gifts or even taking a professor out for drinks may fall into a bit of a gray area. However, it should be remembered that these are all highly situational. If you are ever unsure, it is always safe to follow up with a quick email or thank you note.

By Taryn Beaufort, Asst. Opinion Editor