From Classrooms to Cookouts: Meaningful Student-Faculty Connections at Dickinson College

Professor of music Amy Wlodarski works with a student in front of Weiss.

Professor of music Amy Wlodarski works with a student in front of Weiss.

Video by Joe O'Neil

Connections with faculty set the stage for success

Dickinson professors know their students by name, and they are there to support them, inside and outside of class. That creates a welcoming, personalized approach that helps foster students’ success, from their very first class through graduation day. Those close student-faculty interactions are key to Dickinson's liberal-arts education.

But don't take our word for it. Just ask a new grad.

“Our professors really take a dedicated interest in who you are as a student and really try to connect you with opportunities,” says Amanda Fruman ’22, who graduated with a double major in political science and law & policy.

So how does it work? A low student-faculty ratio and small class sizes facilitate small-group discussions and encourage all students to participate. Outside of classes and labs, many professors attend students’ athletics competitions, concerts and exhibitions. It's even common for professors to invite groups of students to their homes to celebrate educational milestones. That includes Associate Professor of Political Science David O’Connell, who has cooked meals at his home for his First-Year Seminar students and also hosts a barbecue for graduating seniors.

And these extra touches go a long way toward making students feel at home. “Dickinson is the kind of place where you feel comfortable very early on,” affirms Zach Gordon ’23 (international business & management), whose smallest class so far at Dickinson has been with five students and the largest 35. “No matter what size the class is, the professor knows me by name. I think that’s something super special. My friends at other schools don’t have that privilege.”

Our faculty also routinely work closely with students on senior research projects and partner with students on original research and work. Associate Professor of Philosophy Jeff Engelhardt, for example, conducts original research every summer with students and, in some cases, has co-published articles with student researchers.

For many Dickinsonians, those close student-faculty connections continue after graduation. Professors may alert young graduates to, and provide recommendations for, educational, internship and job opportunities. Students very often remain in touch with professors and share professional and personal milestones.

“To be able to play a small role in the path that they take after Dickinson is a gift,” says Sheela Jane Menon, assistant professor of English. “That’s been one of the most meaningful parts of my experience here, as a faculty member at Dickinson.”


Published March 13, 2023