How to Build Connections with Faculty (According to Faculty): Brian Couch

For the first of our “According to Faculty” series, the College of Arts & Science’s Brian Couch weighs on how students can build relationships with faculty members.

A photo of Brian set over a photo of campus with text that reads “According to Faculty with Brian Couch”

Building connections with faculty members can be an incredibly valuable part of your college experience. Yes, they’re experts in their fields, but they’re also endlessly great resources for real-world connections, internships, mentoring, and so much more.

And at Nebraska, we have some of the best.

We’ve spoken to a handful of Nebraska faculty members about best practices for building student-faculty relationships and why you should seek them out — even if their class isn’t your favorite.

First up is Brian Couch of the College of Arts and Sciences. Brian is currently teaching the several-hundred-student Life 120 course and has some great insights on building connections with your faculty in large class settings.

On making that first connection

“For me, right after class is a great time to come up and say hi, especially if you notice there aren’t other students,” says Brian. “If you just want to introduce yourself, I have students do that a lot and I appreciate that!”

You heading this way, too?

“A little secret that I think is under-utilized is that I have a walk back to my office after class. So, if we find our paths on campus are headed in the same direction, it’s a great time to informally chat, talk about class or discuss anything really!”

Faculty want to get to know their students!

“I got into teaching because I want to teach students, I want to get to know students, and I want to see them progress. It excites me when I see them learn and when they do well, and it bugs me if they don’t do well!”

Excited to chat? So are your faculty members

“Hopefully students can have more comfort in approaching faculty, because there’s nothing that delights faculty more than when a student shows interest in a class or asks for support — even after the class is over. Moments like that really make your whole career worthwhile.”

Email is a great place to start!

“I run everything through email — I’m often on email, and I respond on email. I always tell students if you want to reach me, just shoot me an email and I’ll respond, and we can set up a time to have an in-person or Zoom conversation.”

Struggling with the material? Don’t forget about your TAs!

“We have quite a few TAs that are affiliated with the course, and they have tons of office hours offered each week. That’s often a great place to start, especially with practical questions about the textbook, homework assignments or due dates. TAs are amazing and really take the time to make sure they understand students’ needs and concerns. They can also raise high-level concerns to me on behalf of students.”

Give your instructor some space before class — they might be scrambling, too

“There’s often a lot of technical troubleshooting that happens in those large lecture halls. We only have 10 minutes in the classroom before class starts and I have a whole checklist of things I need to organize, so, especially in those first few weeks, I probably need that time to get set up.”

It’s tricky to connect in large classes — but it’s still worth the effort

“It’s challenging to have authentic interactions with every student in those larger classes, but that shouldn’t dissuade us from trying! We still care about every student, even if we don’t get to make a personal connection with every single one.”

Keep an eye out for more insights and advice from our “According to Faculty” series!

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