From students to professors

Professors were once like us: doe-eyed freshmen trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. They've come a long way and many of them still hold fond memories of their college years.

John Reed, lecturer, FIMS

“I was hyper-focused and I don’t mean that in a good way. I was so sure of what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it that I wasn’t open to hearing any new ideas. I was rather closed minded in first year. Now that I’m old, I feel like that’s actually part of being a first-year student.”

Jennifer Irwin, associate professor, school of health studies

“I think any students who knew me now would probably be surprised to know that I was quiet… It took me a couple years to figure out how to be a university student. If anyone had told me, in my first or second year, that I’d end up being a prof, I would’ve thought that they were out of their minds because I didn’t really feel like I connected with university for the first couple of years.”

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prof jennifer irwin at university

Professor Jennifer Irwin as an undergrad student at Wilfrid Laurier University in the '90s

Norma Coates, associate professor, FIMS and Faculty of Music

“I discovered punk rock music. I have always been a music fan and I ended up spending most of my time doing punk rock and partying. I was always able to slide through — I did study — but probably not with the effort that I could have. I was not the model student. I ended up leaving school with incompletes, figuring I’d go back and finish them.”

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professor norma coates during university

Professor Norma Coates in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1980s 

Mark Workentin, professor, chemistry

"I was initially focused a lot on grades and not so much on the learning. I got a little upset, a little emotional, but I worked hard and tried to make the best out of the situation that I had [at Western]... I sometimes focused way too much on the result and not so much about enjoying the experience along the way."

Anthony Skelton, associate professor, philosophy

"Initially, I arrived very naive. I don't think I knew much about the way the world worked, but I soon learned that things were different than I thought. I became much more engaged and studious, and that's probably because I met a lot of really interesting, motivated and hardworking people and they really inspired me to be like that."

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prof anthony skelton at university

Anthony Skelton posing somewhere in Turkey, 1995.


From professors to students

Entering first year can seem daunting and professors understand that. These professors have some words of wisdom to pass on in the hopes that it may lead to success in your university years.

John Reed, lecturer, FIMS

“The first year, especially, is designed to take you out of your comfort zone intellectually. And you’ll look back on this in many ways as being the most memorable time of your whole life.”

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prof john reed at university

FIMS prof John Reed sitting in his residence room on the first day of school.

Jennifer Irwin, associate professor, school of health studies

“Take advantage of the multitude of services that Western offers, maybe even before you need them. If you’ve never written multiple-choice exams before, the Student Success Centre teaches how to write multiple-choice exams and how to study for those exams. I would encourage people to go do that before they actually go write them. And if they’re having a hard time, seek help.”

Norma Coates, associate professor, FIMS and Faculty of Music

“Your professors and TAs all have office hours. That means they’re sitting there, waiting for you. There’s nothing more pathetic than a professor sitting in his or her office hour, waiting for you, not being able to do something… If you want your professors to not be pathetic and sad, you come to their office hours.”

Mark Workentin, professor, chemistry

"I always say this when it comes time for midterms and finals: enjoy them. It may seem ridiculous, because you're going to be stressed, but enjoy them. This is your chance to really get a sense of how you are doing and how your learning skills are developing. Are you getting the material? Enjoy the experience, enjoy the learning, enjoy the education."

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Student Advice (Portrait 4)

Chemistry Professor Mark Workentin smiles for a portrait, August 17, 2017.

Anthony Skelton, associate professor, philosophy

"Try to live a well-rounded life... In addition to your intellectual life, you should also try to lead a good physical life and a good social life. And I don't mean social media, I mean actual embodied friendships. I think that's the best way to cope with your stresses at university and also lead a good life."

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Grace is a news editor for volume 111 at the Gazette. She is a fourth-year neuroscience student minoring in French studies. If you want to reach Grace, email her at grace@westerngazette.ca

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