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An Ode to Richmond's Professor-Student Relationship

By Beth Anne Spacht

August 25, 2019

Guest Post by Charlie Broaddus, Admission Counselor

“Alexis is a chemist.”

During a speech earlier this year, Dean of Richmond’s School of Arts and Sciences Patrice Rankine was speaking about a chemistry student named Alexis. He referred to her as a chemist rather than a chemistry student, and we’ve since used this example often to describe the academic experience at UR.

You can find some pretty intriguing stats about academic life at Richmond on our website, but they won’t tell you the full story of what it’s like to learn here. Instead, it’s important to understand how our professors work with our students, empowering and partnering with them inside and outside the classroom.

As a Richmond grad, I always tell prospective students that my favorite thing about my time as a student was my relationship with professors. From very early in my first year, I received one-on-one attention and was mentored by professors both in my intended major of journalism and in general education courses. There was a common theme of approachability among all of my professors that made learning and asking questions unintimidating tasks.

It helped that all of my classes were around Richmond’s average of 17 students, and that the professors learned my name in the first week. It also helped that at UR, students are expected to learn by doing, not just by reading or listening.

Each of my classes featured lively discussions in which all students participated (whether they liked it at first or not). Professors regularly validated the array of thoughts and opinions in class, acknowledging that students should learn from each other and that there isn’t always one correct answer or point of view. Classes, regardless of the subject, became places where I was comfortable speaking up, hearing thoughts that contradicted my own, and asking my professors whatever questions came to mind.

As I moved through my first year and beyond, professors encouraged me to practice my craft by joining the school newspaper. I saw my friends do scientific research alongside their professors (in their first year!). As silly as it might sound, my peers and I felt respected by our professors – as if our work mattered just as much as theirs – and that made all the difference. I felt like a journalist, not just a journalism student.

The result of this empowerment is your success and growth. Since students are given early opportunities to do professional work, they often produce scholarly research that is showcased at symposiums on campus and around the world. Internship and research opportunities are easier to find, not only because your professors have helpful connections, but because you’ve already proved yourself. If you’ve conducted research as a first-year student, then by the time that internship comes calling after junior year, you’re ready.

On top of all that professional stuff, it’s nice to have mentors to guide you. Many professors at Richmond aren’t too busy to take you to lunch or sit down outside of office hours for a candid conversation. They’ll help you plan your class schedule, figure out what you want to do with your life, and overcome the challenges of leaving home and starting anew.

I encourage you to apply to Richmond (by December 1 for automatic Richmond Scholars consideration) if you want to feel supported, get hands-on learning opportunities, and have your voice heard in the classroom. It may not seem too important now as you ponder which school has the best dining hall or six-month employment rate (ours is 97%, by the way), but I can assure you it will make a meaningful difference in your college experience.

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Associate Director of Admission 


A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

Learn more about Tom


Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Senior Assistant Director of Admission


Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

The University of Richmond is a highly ranked liberal arts university offering an extraordinary combination of the liberal arts with law, business, leadership studies, and continuing education. The university is consistently named a best value in higher education by leading publications.

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