Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Inside SOP, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s blog. It is reprinted here with permission.
While the School of Pharmacy is world renowned for its advancements in pharmacy education, scientific discovery, and patient care, it still faces an unspoken and universal truth shared among institutions of higher learning: Students sometimes feel lost and unsure of themselves and as if they have no one to whom they can turn. This silent struggle can prevent many students from comfortably and confidently seeking out help with their academics, pharmacy careers, and research projects. In trying to keep up with the hustle of pharmacy school, students have forgotten who their biggest asset and source of support can be: faculty.
Breaking Down Barriers
On Oct. 31, members of the School of Pharmacy’s chapters of the Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Society and the Rho Chi Society set out to nurture positive relationships between students and faculty by hosting the school’s first-ever “Student FaculTEA Party.” Students and faculty were invited to a tea party-style lunch, complete with finger sandwiches, pretzels and hummus, fruit, and tea for all to enjoy. Our goal was to have an informal yet structured gathering where faculty and students could put aside their titles and get to know one another on a personal level.
More than 40 students and nearly 20 faculty attended our gathering, including Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FCP, FAAPS, dean and professor of the school. To kick off the event, we broke attendees into small groups, which included approximately six students and two or three faculty members each. We started with a “This or That” icebreaker, which brought a lot of laughs and set the mood for our event. Through a series of questions, students and faculty talked about their childhood memories, hobbies, failures, lessons learned, and how to move forward. Many of the questions asked were not ones that would be commonly broached in typical conversations between students and faculty, as they were not related to pharmacy school.
We then shifted the conversation to the barriers that faculty sometimes assume students encounter when trying to approach them, as well as what students consider to be the true barriers. Our goal was to transform this silent struggle into an acknowledged, spoken one. We have noticed that students primarily interact with faculty during lectures or roundtables; as a result, they often shy away from approaching faculty for advice or guidance on problems not directly related to those brief interactions. They forget that their professors, though knowledgeable and wise now, started in the same place they did — as students who faced the same anxieties and stressors that current students continue to experience and ones who can relate to almost any challenge we might currently be confronting.
By not leveraging a resource as rich as faculty insight, students are only hindering themselves. The years in pharmacy school go by fast, and it is important for students and faculty to understand how we can work together to make this time more productive. We believe that, by offering students an opportunity to get to know their professors outside the confines of the classroom, they will start to see faculty as less intimidating and more approachable — mentors to whom they can turn for advice and guidance on any academic, professional, or personal challenge they might be experiencing.
Building Productive Relationships
Although the party was only an hour long, we hope that all those who attended make the most of it moving forward. For students, we hope the next time they see the faculty members they spoke with, that they will say hello and stop to have a conversation. Hopefully, the next time they encounter an obstacle that they do not think they can overcome alone, they will know they have someone to whom they can turn. And the next time they have a question, they will know whom to reach out to for help. For faculty, we hope they have gained a better understanding of the reasons that students may not come to them for help as often as they expect, and use that understanding to guide their interactions with students.
We plan to host the “Student FaculTEA Party” each semester, with the hope of developing relationships that will ultimately help faculty and students at the school unlock their full potential.
— Leann Kwak and Saniya Chaudhry, third-year student pharmacists