Lots of students at liberal arts colleges talk about the quality of the teaching, and the close relationships that classes form with their professors.
At St. Olaf, they’ve put it down in writing. On a tour of the campus, I stumbled upon a temporary shrine of sorts to professors in the skyway between Buntrock Commons and Boe Memorial Chapel.
I saw dozens of little notes that students had written to their professors. Stuff like this:
MPR PHoto / Alex Friedrich
This homage to professors — started last Monday night and scheduled to run through that week — was the sole project of biology senior Holly Belgum.
She said she got the idea from a class called “Death, Dying and Bereavement” with professor Michael Leming, which she said shows how important relationships are.
She told me:
“It’s very important, especially late in life, to say, ‘I love you. Thank you.’ I’m wondering whether (professors) know how much students appreciate everything they do for us.”
With already dozens of notes posted by the time I arrived on Thursday, Belgum said:
“People have really responded. It’s been really cool to see.”
(And by the time Leming wrote me an e-mail the next day, he said there were “hundreds.”)
Belgum said she plans on delivering the notes to their respective professors, and possibly compiling the messages into one work.
She thought of the project, she said, because:
“It’s the professors we have relationships with that make St. Olaf so great. It’s one of the reasons I came to St. Olaf. Our professors are so dedicated. They ask you how you’re doing. They’re very available, and they go out of their way to help you at any time of day.”
She recalled a chemistry professor she once went to with some class-related questions — and ended up discussing Moby-Dick with him at length.
“He’s a very busy man, but he put everything down and just listened to me.”