As I get ready to walk across the stage, grab my diploma, and (knock on wood) graduate in a few weeks, I can’t help but reminisce about my time at Southwestern. Imagine what my college experience would have been like without Southwestern. Whenever someone asks me about my time at Southwestern, I always get the same question: “What is your favorite part?” There are many aspects I could mention; however, there is one in particular that stands out: the faculty. Every school boasts about its faculty, but the faculty at Southwestern is second to none. No matter the discipline, every professor wants their students to succeed and will go above and beyond to make that happen. Whether it’s encouraging you to take a risk and take a class outside your comfort zone, sitting down and going step-by-step through your coursework, or even giving guidance on internship and job opportunities, the professors I have taken a class with have helped me grow personally and professionally.

I will be graduating with a bachelor of arts in business administration, but if you were to look at my transcript, you would realize that a majority of my classes are not tagged as “business classes.” In fact, only 38% of the classes I have taken at Southwestern have counted toward my major. I have taken classes in almost every discipline, and the professors are great in each one. Each one encourages you to think differently, provides insights that you may not have thought about before, and wants to get to know you even if you’re not majoring in their field of expertise.

Although every professor has had an impact on me, there are a few who I want to highlight who have helped make my Southwestern Experience truly unique.

Dr. Jessica HowerDr. Jessica HowerFirst-year seminar and studying abroad

Every student at Southwestern is required to take a first-year seminar (FYS). This class helps prepare students for making connections between disciplines, assists students in the transition to a rigorous college workload, and gives students a glimpse of the curriculum at the University. My FYS was “A Pirate’s Life for Me,” a class all about the history of pirateswhich is appropriate given Southwestern’s mascot. This class was taught by Dr. Jessica Hower, an assistant professor of history. Throughout the class, I was able to get to know Dr. Hower well and would see her around campus every now and again. Then, during my sophomore year, I saw her at the study-abroad fair, and she told me that she was coleading Southwestern’s London Program, a 15-week program that encourages two Southwestern faculty to use London and its surrounding area as their living classroom. Well, after a little research and convincing from Dr. Hower, I decided that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and decided to head across the pond.

Looking back at it, I am so glad Dr. Hower told me about that opportunity and helped convince me to study abroad. We traveled around London, linking what we were learning in the classroom to what was around us. For instance, in my Tudors: Politics and Cultures class, we visited Hampton Court, the palace of the infamous Henry VIII, and connected it with the class readings we discussed earlier that week. In my Theatre Arts in London class, we attended renowned West End plays every week and then discussed and analyzed them in class. I was also able to complete an internship abroad at a content marketing firm called Mediablaze—which looks great on my résumé.

If it wasn’t for Dr. Hower and the relationship we formed my first year, I would have missed out on every one of these opportunities. Now, as I get ready to walk across the stage, I realize how lucky I was to have such an awesome FYS professor!

Dr. Erika BerrothDr. Erika BerrothOne-on-one advising

When you are a first-year at Southwestern, you are assigned an advisor based on a major you are interested in. Your advisor helps set your schedule, provides you a list of opportunities available both inside and outside the realm of the University, and even offers to meet with you if you’re struggling with anything else. In a sense, advising at Southwestern is a relationship that allows you to collaborate with faculty to personalize your academic experience. Meeting with my advisor every semester was one of the highlights of my Southwestern Experience because you get to catch up, discuss classes for the following semester, and have a great conversation about your future.

During my first year, I was assigned Dr. Erika Berroth, an associate professor of German, as my advisor. Since I was considering a major in business administration, I was a little skeptical at the fact that I was assigned a German professor as my advisor. Yet after four years with Dr. Berroth, I realize that I was lucky to be assigned an advisor outside my major. Through her advice and guidance, I registered for classes that I would have never taken otherwise—which have happened to be a few of my favorite classes. Whether it was the intro to psychology, East Asian art history, or even participating in guitar lessons, she encouraged me to explore and make connections between classes inside and outside my major.

Capstone and internships

All students at Southwestern are required to take capstone, a semester-long course that provides students the opportunity to integrate their knowledge from all disciplines into a report and presentation. This course is rigorous yet also rewarding because it requires you to recall and incorporate everything you have learned in your major up to that point. Throughout the semester, you get to know your professor well because of regular checkpoints and office hours. My business capstone was taught by Dr. Debika Sihi, an assistant professor of business and, as anyone who has taken a class with Dr. Sihi knows, one of the most caring people on campus.

Dr. Debika Sihi teaches a marketing class.Dr. Debika Sihi teaches a marketing class.

The topic for my business capstone was how to use artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), or blockchain technology to solve a business problem. Dr. Sihi brought in two industry experts, a chief operating officer at a leading blockchain company and a vice president of a local VR company, to help us better understand the technologies. She was also always willing to meet with my group at school or through Skype if we needed additional help. Because Dr. Sihi went above and beyond to make capstone engaging and rewarding, I now have a tangible project to show future employers.

Finally, Dr. Sihi helps her students find internships and jobs after college by emailing students opportunities. Then, because she knows what employers are looking for, she provides feedback on résumés and cover letters before we send them to different companies. With Dr. Sihi’s help, I have landed two internships that have given me invaluable experience for postgraduation.

So, in short, Southwestern’s faculty is what makes the Southwestern Experience unique. They want to see their students succeed not only academically but professionally, too. With graduation looming, I am confident I will leave the safety of Southwestern’s campus ready to succeed in the “real world” because of them.