With class sizes growing to accommodate undergraduates, many students are becoming frustrated with their inability to stand out among a sea of students.
Seeking to address this problem, the UCSB Department of Academic Initiatives, a new department within the Division of Student Affairs, is dedicated to connecting students and faculty outside the lecture hall.
The department has begun hosting quarterly events known as “Faculty Nights” that allow students to interact with professors and other faculty from a variety of areas as they meet to discuss given topics.
Each faculty member that attends these events is extended an invitation through anonymous nominations made by students, leading to a greater variety of opinions and discussion.
According to Mark Shishim, assistant director of UCSB’s Department of Academic Initiatives, the Faculty Nights will create an environment for students to easily interact with professors.
“[The event] has just enough structure to bring two completely different groups of people together. There’s not a built-in hierarchy like in a classroom,” Shishim said. “Faculty want to learn more than anybody.”
Michael Mahan, Ph.D. and professor of biology, headlined this quarter’s event, leading the discussion with a presentation on his revolutionary work in the field of bacterial pathogenesis.
Mahan posed questions concerning the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the immense impact it has on the human population, as well as domestic and international pharmaceutical and food industries.
“We get a lot of interesting conversation which leads to further discovery. We get people empowered and impassioned about what we do,” Mahan said. “I think some of the best discoveries happen when you don’t have a bunch of people that are trained the same.”
“Since it’s so cross-disciplinary here, every individual is going to have unique questions because everyone is thinking about it in a different way,” explained Stephanie Landeros, fourth-year biology major. “The questions that are coming out of this are really interesting to hear.”
Faculty Nights provide a new way for faculty and students to interact without the pressure of academia. As a result, the staff hopes students will feel encouraged to go to office hours and interact with their professors more frequently outside of the quarterly events.
“I love the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a professor or faculty member,” said Justin Su, first-year pre-chemistry major. “I wish we could do this every night.”
A version of this story appeared on p. 14 of the Thursday, April 21 edition of the Daily Nexus.