Insights from Graduating Students
On Friday, May 3, the College of Dentistry held its annual Convocation ceremony to celebrate the Dental and Dental Hygiene Classes of 2019. Leading up to this momentous event are two or four years of focused study, practice, patient management, and a great deal of personal growth and development. As I listened to the graduation speeches, filled with stories of loyalty, hard work, support, and encouragement, I also heard stories of hard times due to personal challenges, like a death of a loved one; or an illness; or academic stress, like failing a course or struggling to find the “right” patient for a board exam. Oftentimes, our students can get so caught up in the stress and anxiety that is inherent in dental school that they forget about the equally important moments of great learning or encouragement that are also part of the process.
With that in mind, the Office of Student Affairs, as part of the check-out process for the dental students, asked our soon-to-be graduates to reflect on their experience; to pause amidst the chaos of graduation, moving homes, starting a new job, and entering the “real world” and take a moment to thank someone—whether it be a member of faculty or staff, or an office—for making a positive impact on their success in dental school. This was an opportunity to step back and consider the good things. Each student was given a postcard on which they were prompted to consider who or what positively influenced or impacted their growth and development. The outcome has been an astounding reminder of what great faculty and staff our college has, how the “little things” make a difference, and how kindness and a belief in a student’s ability to be successful go a long way.
By and large the students expressed gratitude for the faculty in the college. They told stories of faculty who took the time to share their expertise and help them learn. They said things like, the faculty “pushed students to achieve while promoting critical thinking and problem solving” or the faculty were “very invested in [our] learning and took the time to make sure [we] knew the WHY and not just the WHAT.” These are just two examples of how our graduating students appreciate the way in which our faculty taught them the art and science of dentistry.
Secondly, our students noticed the little things that can get lost among the more visible components of school, like coursework, exams, and patient concerns. They appreciated that Charlie, one of our custodians, is a “genuine, sweet guy who was a pleasure to see every day.” They noticed that their clinic desk staff positively impacted their experience by being “willing to help even when it made more work” for them or that they “helped countless times through clinic and were always there to provide motivation and a smile.” They appreciated the dispensing staff who were “helpful and kind and willing to go the extra mile.” And they remain grateful for moments of friendship, like when a faculty member, seeing a student in the ever-present gray scrubs standing at a bus stop and knowing said student would be late for class, stopped and offered him a ride.
Lastly, the Class of 2019 appreciated that faculty and staff believe in them and treat them with respect. They agreed that will help them become better dentists or dental hygienists. While there were challenges to learning how to interact with patients and applying their pre-clinical lab experiences in the clinical setting, the graduating classes appreciated how the faculty not only took the time to allow them to ask questions and think for themselves but also taught them “that a little kindness goes a long way and a lot of kindness changes lives.” The faculty pushed them to do things they didn’t think they were able to do. Most importantly, though, the faculty showed them “how to be better humans”.