Butler Professors Engage Students

JULIAN WYLLIE | Columnist

At the end of college, Christine Smith will be one of my favorite professors.

As an incoming freshman, I had never had a teacher like her before.

Smith’s first year seminar “Rebels with a cause” was a life-changing experience.

The writing assignments were focused on creativity and the discussions were insightful.

Twenty years of experience has taught Smith that it is not a professor’s job to force feed students with answers to assignments, she said.

She regularly goes beyond the limits of what is expected from a college course.

The point is not to replicate Smith’s exact teaching style. But successful professors can make any subject interesting if a sincere effort is shown.

In the end, students will remember the professors who pushed them to work harder and achieve something more important than a letter grade.

This is no easy task, however.

It can be difficult to keep a student’s attention when laptops, phones and iPods regularly cause distractions.

But I think the best professors are far more interesting than any texts and emails that can distract me.

In those cases, the professor will have my undivided attention.

“The hardest part about being a professor is assessing what students have learned. I try to make my assignments interesting for the students and myself as well,” Smith said.

Smith’s long history in the teaching profession helps her understand the balance between challenging course work and the joys of learning.

In short, professor Smith simply loves teaching. It’s much more than a job to her.

“When I leave Butler, I will not teach anymore. I cannot imagine myself teaching anywhere else after 20 years. Butler has been very good to me, and I have been very good to Butler,” Smith said.

I appreciate the effort she put forth every day. I felt like I had to match her commitment.

Smith was the first of her family to graduate college and she remembers enjoying her time as an undergraduate at Ball State.

While times have changed, the value of an education has not. Smith sees education as a privilege to not be taken lightly.

Smith recalls her favorite professors taking an interest in her life. She was able to maintain a connection with those individuals long after graduating.

This kind of relationship with a student is not to be overlooked. A professor who truly cares about your success can make all the difference.

Hilary Buttrick is another example of a great Butler professor.

Buttrick teaches business ethics and a first year seminar on gender and the law.

Her past experiences in private practice were challenging, but she always hoped to find an opportunity to teach, she said.

It took 12 years, but she found the perfect job.

“Teaching is so much more fun,” Buttrick said.

A topic like law can be very dry for students, but for Buttrick’s class, this was not the case.

I particularly remember a class day where we discussed ethics in relation to conflicts of interest.

She asked us to think of a hypothetical scenario where we knew something that could be damaging to someone close to us.

I remember the class day because almost everyone related their experiences about their friends and families.

Some told stories that their friends did not know.

She engaged us as individuals on a personal level. A scantron test and a final exam cannot measure this kind of learning.

Buttrick believes that professors have to keep themselves motivated throughout the semester.

“You can’t do the same thing over and over in every class because it will get repetitive,”  Buttrick said.

She also recognizes that professors can get bored too.

In the end, I want my professors to have high expectations of me. If they try hard, students will try harder.

In my opinion, it’s a professor’s job to teach, enlighten and inspire.

After college, the special student-professor connections will be most important to me.

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