Campus News

Faculty-student interaction is a helpful but underused resource at UW-Madison, poll shows

UW-Madison’s recent campus climate survey results revealed that underrepresented groups also reported that they felt uncomfortable approaching instructors with questions and concerns.

UW-Madison’s recent campus climate survey results revealed that underrepresented groups also reported that they felt uncomfortable approaching instructors with questions and concerns.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

A recent student poll revealed that student interaction with faculty and teaching assistants is seen as a beneficial yet underutilized resource by students at UW-Madison.

Just over 33 percent of the student respondents claimed they think these interactions are underused and over nine percent said the same about support from campus staff.

This is often because students feel intimidated by instructors even though they are “there to help,” according to Director of Undergraduate Advising Wren Singer.

“One of our most amazing resources here is our faculty,” Singer said. “It’s such a missed opportunity when students are too intimidated to talk to them, because that’s what they’re there for.”

According to Singer, the reluctance to meet with faculty is sometimes caused by academic struggles, something she said UW-Madison students may not have experienced before college.

“Many [UW-Madison] students did really well in high school, so they might not have the experience of asking for help or they might be embarrassed about it,” she said.

UW-Madison’s recent campus climate survey results revealed that underrepresented groups also reported that they felt uncomfortable approaching instructors with questions and concerns.

Singer said these findings were no surprise to her.

“Underrepresented students who are excluded from our campus culture may feel uncomfortable [talking to faculty] because they might think they’ll have the same experiences that they do in other spaces,” Singer said.

The campus climate plays a large role in historically marginalized students’ reluctance to approach faculty, Singer said.

“It has everything to do with the climate we’ve created here that causes them to feel uncomfortable and absolutely nothing to do with their own ability or drive,” she said.

Mariah Skenandore, co-president of the Native American student organization Wunk Sheek, said she has experienced instances where she was uncomfortable contacting her instructors.

“I have a hard time going up to professors, especially if the classroom is full of predominantly white students or the professor is white,” Skenandore said. “I feel like they don’t have any shared experiences as me.”

Skenandore suggested that underrepresented students reach out to faculty who have the same identities as them to make them feel more comfortable. She said it may help them with approaching other professors who are different from them in the future.

Singer emphasized that preparation is key if students are anxious about interacting with faculty.

“If a student goes with a very clear idea of what they want to ask and what they want to talk about, they can feel a lot more comfortable,” Singer said. “[Faculty] are there to teach. They’re there to help students.”

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