How to Build Connections with Faculty (According to Faculty): Marianna Burks

Next in our “According to Faculty” series is BIOS 101 instructor Marianna Burks. Marianna weighs in on helping your instructor understand your needs, finding ways to be flexible with students, and creating communities in classes.

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

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.

Next in our ongoing According to Faculty series is Marianna Burks of the College of Arts and Sciences. Marianna is teaching both lecture and lab sections of BIOS 101 this fall. She spoke to us about how connecting with faculty members helps students be successful, the importance of being upfront with your needs, and so much more!

On why students should seek relationships with their faculty: help them help you

“Building relationships with faculty is important because it allows the instructor to know what the student’s needs are,” says Marianna.

“They feel more relaxed, and when they’re relaxed, they’re willing to communicate what’s going on in their lives and their schedules. I can be more flexible with students by understanding where students are in life and what they might need — the more we know students, the more we as faculty can be accommodating and help students be successful.”

Life happens — faculty can be flexible if you communicate your needs

“Yes, you’ll have deadlines. But, if a student says, Mrs. Burks, I have to go back home to harvest,’ that’s important to that student, and I want to make sure I can meet the needs of their life and their families. I want students to feel like there’s room to get done what they need to get done both inside and outside of class.”

A simple email can go a long way

“A lot of students will communicate with me through email, at first. When we make that initial contact, I find that those students are more willing to come in for office hours. This is because I can say, ‘Hey, there’s a quiet, inviting space here in my office for you to work on your assignments and ask me or TAs questions.’ By the end of the semester, I’ll have groups of students sitting at the table in my office and working on their assignments together, with myself and TAs right there as a resource.”

College is hard — faculty want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself

“I do reflections with my students. I have a little in class activity where I sit them down and we’ll say, ‘I’m tired,’ ‘I’m sleepy,’ ‘I’m exhausted,’ ‘I’m excited,’ ‘I’m just trying to get through the week’ — it’s been a really good exercise for students to balance their wellbeing with academia. It doesn’t always have to be so heavy on the content when we’re meeting or having class — we can focus on other things that help students be successful, too.”

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

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