Dr. Scott Pryor, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering, shadowed a third-year mechanical engineering student, Mariah Rose. Rose also works as an administrative assistant in the Civil Engineering Department at North Dakota State University. This fact does not make Rose unique, though. According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ 2017 report on The Condition of Education, 43 percent of all full-time undergraduate college students and 81 percent of all part-time undergraduate college students are employed while seeking a degree. Because Rose is an example of the way many college students live, she is an excellent student to shadow.
Pryor and Rose’s day began at 7 a.m., though her first class did not start until 8 a.m. She chooses to use her first hour on campus to prepare for class or study. Pryor met up with Rose in the A. Glenn Hill building, where she had already begun to prepare for her first class of the day. Straightaway, Pryor noticed Rose was very intentional with her study habits. He couldn’t help but compare his experience as a college student to Rose’s, noting that he felt much less intentional about his studies when he was a student.
…43 percent of all full-time undergraduate college students and 81 percent of all part-time undergraduate college students are employed while seeking a degree.”
Pryor observed that her work schedule is a bit erratic because of her school schedule, and yet she somehow effectively manages the tasks of both areas of her life. He stated, “Mariah was super organized as a student” and did not need a lot of mentoring.
Is it Time For a Nap?
Witnessing Rose balance her hectic school and work schedule would leave even the motivated feeling tired. Pryor noticed a stark contrast from his undergraduate experience in which he spent a lot of time trying to fit sleep into his daily routine. His struggle to get adequate sleep had an impact on him, and he shares that impact with students when he gets the opportunity. He tells students to “get good sleep, preferably at night.” He goes on to explain, “Your body will find any opportunity to sleep, and it may not always be at the best time.”
…don’t let your classroom be the time students are sleeping.”
For faculty, Pryor’s advice is, don’t let your classroom be the time students are sleeping. One of Rose’s classes was in a large lecture hall. Pryor noticed this class was not in a room designed for active learning. However, the instructor made great use of the space they were given, which is one way to ensure your students stay awake.
Knowledge (a Shadow) Gained
Faculty tend to remember college in the way it was for themselves.
Returning to the classroom as a shadow student after having been a teacher made Pryor’s experience a more active one than it had been when he was a student. He found himself more aware of the structure of a class. He also saw the importance of reviewing learning objectives at the beginning of the class as a way to ensure student’s retention of material and overall focus.
Retention of students is so ethically important to our university.
The Shadow a Student Challenge can help administrators, faculty, or staff identify ways to retain students. Finding ways to retain students is especially important for employed students, as they make up a significant portion of today’s college student population. Promoting this experience shows that NDSU genuinely cares about students and the experiences they have during their time here. Shadowing a student can be a vehicle for positive change on our campus because it promotes empathy and understanding of our students.
Another opportunity to make positive change for your programs.
This experience can help you identify areas of strength and areas of improvement across your unit’s programs. If faculty participate, they could gain practical insights to what students need in a classroom learning environment. Getting the opportunity to hear a student’s perspective might help ensure that learning objectives are being met adequately. You may find simple reminders like getting enough sleep are important to students’ overall success. Read more ideas for simple reminders.
While in awe of her abilities to balance school and work, Pryor is also not surprised. By the time these students get to their third year, they have been through the gauntlet of what it means to be a student and already have a good grasp on their program. Pryor stated, “The level of work these third-year students are doing renewed my confidence in the rigor of the program.”
The level of work these third-year students are doing renewed my confidence in the rigor of the program.”
In the future, Pryor would like to shadow a first-year student because he believes a higher percentage of those students are likely to be struggling. Identifying their struggles may help in retaining those students.
Rose and Pryor ended their day around 2 p.m. Thankfully, in the years since his undergraduate experience Pryor has adjusted his sleep habits and was able to finish his workday without requiring a nap.
If you are interested in participating in a future Shadow a Student Challenge, contact Dr. Carrie Anne Platt. Also, let us know in the comments below if you have any questions for Dr. Pryor regarding his experience with the Shadow a Student Challenge.
Read the experiences of other participants:
- Dr. Tim O. Peterson, professor of management, College of Business
- Dr. Carrie Anne Platt, associate dean, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
- Dr. Rhonda Kitch, former NDSU registrar
About the Author
In more than 14 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about higher education. She curates this blog to allow all individuals to continue learning about higher education and best practices in teaching.
Let’s learn together!