My office hours as a section leader in the late 1980s were busy. Students would come in to talk about ideas, current events, and plans for graduate school. This spring I got a note from a former student I taught in 1987. She let me know that ideas we had talked about in office hours and class had led her to publish an article this year. Office hour conversations can have a long term impact, because you can ask questions that range near and far from course content.
Email is a poor substitute for talking directly with a teacher. In office hours, I can ask questions like: What are your plans for the summer? Have you read this article? Did you ever consider working at this media organization? Those are not questions you’d end an email with, but they are frequently the start of conversations in office hours. At graduation in June, I got the chance to talk with three sets of parents about how their daughters or sons had traversed life at Stanford and what their plans were for life beyond. The single thing those students had in common was that I got to know them when they came to talk to me in office hours as sophomores.
If you want to know how a professor got the idea that sparked a book, how the class relates to today’s New York Times, or whether you should apply to grad school, the best way to start is to come to office hours.
Hearst Professor of Communication