This is Why I Teach (Student Feedback Edition)

Semester is over, grading is finished, graduation was sadly virtual – we have somehow gotten to the end of the academic year. This is typically a not-so-happy time of the year for me – professionally speaking. I am not interacting with my wonderful students every day. I am looking at the lone work of prepping for Fall through the summer months.

Then this came through my email today – from my wonderful student Harpreet Kalsi from my TO426 Mobile Innovation Development class:

Hey Professor Kumar,

As the term and my time at Ross ends, I was reflecting and I wanted to send you a big thank you!

I’m not sure if I told you this during office hours, but coming into TO 426 I had multiple backup plans because I thought I was going to need to drop the class. Not because I was not interested, but because I genuinely thought I would not be able to keep up. Every time you told us we were going to build an app (or even some of the smaller stuff) I did not believe it – but somehow you got us there. Through your class, I was able to do something I did not believe I could, which I think is really special. That is what a professor/leader is all about, and after 4 years at the great University of Michigan, I only felt this only once. Moving forward into the world where I am sure to face many tasks that seem insurmountable, I will remember you and TO 426, and I will push on and do what I may not believe I can do.

This is why I teach. This is what makes all the work worth it.

This email is also indicative of challenges that higher education is facing in the current turbulent times. We are all tightening our belts – including reducing number of electives offered. Unfortunately – TO426 (and its graduate counterpart TO626) will not be offered in the coming Fall term. Niche courses like this are wonderful for the right audience but typically struggle to attract a large enough enrollment. Its sad to see such a great course that took so much work and effort to build being discontinued.

Couple more recent student email. I am not crediting students for these as I have not yet taken their permission to use their names.

I really cherish the time we spent in the short but odd semester in person, all the algorithms you’ve taught and the way you did it really impressed me. To be honest, TO414 is the only class that I’ve never skipped during the two and half months. In addition, participating in the Datathon which was also held by you gave me an unforgettable experience of tackling real-life data and thus putting what we learnt into practice. Again I want to say thank you for all the efforts you’ve paid for your students.

Not sure how I should feel about a student saying that they never skipped my class (do they skip other classes on the regular?).

As I graduate, I want to thank you for teaching classes that I was excited to attend every week for two semesters. You were one of my favorite professors over the past 4 years. I loved how you were always so passionate when you speak about all the future changes technologies could bring. I found those “tangents” during lectures to be very interesting and insightful. I’ve found myself and other students to be more engaged than normal during your lectures, so thank you for being so good at keeping our short attention spans!

I am infamous for going off on tangents and (in opinion of many) wasting class time outside the structured class material. Nice so see that at least someone finds them useful.

Closing thought: these are of course cherry picked comments. I get my fair share of not so complementary comments too.