‘Selfies of Professors’ Show Students the Other Side of College Life

Have you ever felt alone? Did you ever think that college would never be something at which you could succeed? Did you look for inspiration but couldn’t find it? These are the challenging questions many people who attend college often face and overcome in the hopes of harnessing a better education and life.

With the help of Mark Stevens, director of California State University, Northridge’s Counseling Services, and under the lights and cameras of CSUN’s Visual Communications studio VISCOM, a short video series could show students who are searching for their path in college that they are not alone in their struggles. Selfies of Your Professors follows five CSUN educators and their college experiences.

Professors included are Frankline Augustin ’08 (Biology) the Department of Health Sciences, Sylvia Alva, dean of the College of Health and Human Development, Department of Journalism professor José Luis Benavides, Department of Electrical Engineering professor Benjamin Millard and University 100 professor Darlene Mininni.

The concept for the video gained momentum when Stevens led a faculty workshop in 2014 and posed a series of introspections to the group: Tell me about yourself. Tell me a story about how you might have struggled getting into college, and the academic confidence issues that you struggled with.

“Some professors started really opening up,” Stevens said. “And my jaw dropped. What would it have been like for a student to hear these stories?”

The concept of Selfies of Professors clearly aligned with Stevens’ Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning (EXCEL) video series program, which explores student issues with academic confidence, building connections on campus and gaining a sense of belonging.

“For me the bottom line is that I believe that when students believe that their professors can relate to them, they are more likely to ask for help and it is more likely that they will try harder in their classes,” he said.

CSUN students who were shown the video said they felt that the teachers were more relatable to them, and that college is easier to get through because of the professors sharing their college experiences.

Of the professors Stevens interviewed for the video, many of them are first-generation college students like Augustin.

“I was trying to be brave because my mother was there [during class registration],” she explains in the video. “I didn’t want to seem scared even though the whole thing was pretty scary. Out of nowhere I just started crying. I was just done, I was tired and I didn’t get any classes.”

Stevens explained that stories like Augustin’s could be a source of inspiration for students, especially those who are among the first-generation college students who currently make up about 30 percent of CSUN’s undergraduate population.

“The targeted audience are college students who may not see professors as approachable,” he said. “There may be a perception of too much of a hierarchical gap; we’re wanting for the professors to really look approachable to students.”

Stevens also explained that he hopes to inspire students to use their professors as a resource for their academic success.

“[Students] have a right to utilize their professors, and the professors want them to do that,” he said. “They like to have relationships with their students – they are inspired and motivated by their students.”

In the video, University 100 professor Mininni discusses how students and professors are really on the same side of the learning experience – both wish to be inspired.

“Here I am today talking to you, supposedly on the other side of the hill, but I still do this. ‘Who can help me navigate the next hurdle? Who’s done something I haven’t done here?’” she asked. “I’m always looking to be inspired. I think until the day we die, all of us are looking for inspiration. It never ends.”

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