Building faculty-student relationships in higher education

Molly Dingel and Gemma Punti / Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning / January 2023

This qualitative research study explores student perceptions of how they build relationships with faculty, including factors that facilitate or undermine these relationships. Building such relationships is an important part of mentoring. Interviews with students reveal the importance of both innovative institutional supports and faculty initiative. Institutional supports that facilitate relationships include small classroom sizes and centralized, open locations for faculty to hold office hours. Faculty initiatives, like reaching out to and encouraging interaction with students and engaged teaching activities, are critical for building relationships with students. Consistent messaging that questions are welcome may be particularly important for underrepresented and first-generation students. Students reported frustration when faculty members were less engaged in the classroom, which undermined that relationship. Finally, interactions can create an iterative cycle within which positive faculty-student relationships develop. The culmination of these is a local culture where faculty-student interactions are welcomed and normal, thus encouraging additional interaction.