Three years ago, Burcu Aydin, educational administration graduate student, said she came to CSUN feeling “lost here and there.”
Knowing what classes and professors to take was a struggle for her. However, as Aydin, who graduates June 3, reflected on her experiences at CSUN, she said she has had an “overall rewarding journey.”
“It sure has been an eye-opening experience for me studying (here),” Aydin said. “I challenged (people), and I was challenged. I struggled and continued striving.”
But Aydin did not get through college on her own. She received guidance from professors in the Educational Leadership and Policies Department. Even more influential was Aydin’s relationship with Justine Su, one of the department’s professors, who has mentored Aydin throughout her stay at CSUN.
“She’s a lifelong mentor to me, and that won’t change,” Aydin said.
Like Su, many CSUN professors have established long-term relationships with students, and have felt satisfied and proud as they see their students move on to graduate school or jobs.
Communication studies Professor Christie Logan, who has been at CSUN since 1979, has had many close relationships with students, some of whom she still keeps in contact with.
Logan has become so close with one former student, Ronda Picarelli, who is now a part-time professor in communication studies at CSUN, that the two have dinner together every Wednesday.
“That’s the fun part of being a professor, when you encounter your old student,” Logan said.
Some CSUN professors said they are pleased to see their students accomplish their goals, but are still saddened by their departure.
“It makes me very proud,” Logan said of some of this week’s graduates. “Especially (students) that had difficulties. There’s a real sense of satisfaction. It’s unlike any other experience. There is no other reason to (teach). We’re not getting rich. Sometimes it seems like a thankless task, but then you have those moments when you see students accomplish their goals.”
Tom Spencer-Walters, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department, said he has been a mentor to students, and gets satisfaction from helping them graduate.
“Many of the (graduates) are thinking with some trepidation and some anxiety about switching over from the university life to a job,” Spencer-Walters said. “They need someone to reassure them that making the transformation (from) student to professional is not (an) impossible task.”
Religious Studies Professor Amir Hussain, who has been at CSUN since 1997, said he has witnessed the tough times students go through, and loves seeing students graduate and move toward their goals. He reminisced about the first-time freshmen in his classes who have grown as students.
“You’re helping people become the people they want to be,” Hussain said. “It’s (a) transformation.”
Though it is similar to watching one’s own child leave home, he said, there comes a time when students have to go out into the real world.
Just as babies have an expected time to get out of their mothers’ wombs, Hussain said, students must get out at a certain time, or the experience will not be healthy.
However, some professors said graduates have a different way of thinking about their education, and said they hope that things change over time.
“There’s no attachment to academia,” Spencer-Walters said. “It’s … a place to come to fulfill a task that (students’) parents want (them) to take. It would be unfair to characterize all students that way (though).’
Logan expressed similar opinions about some students.
“In my generation, we went to universities,” Logan said. “It was a lifestyle. It was a life of the mind … to kind of talk philosophy until 3 a.m.”
The professors said they might deal differently with future generations of students, and also said today’s generation of students are not the same, and focus more on acquiring the degree for the purpose of getting a job rather than for the purpose of getting an education.
“Some of my colleagues say some of the students aren’t as they used to be,” said Michael Meyer, history professor. “(But) it’s a generalization that quality is going down. I’m not one (to say), ‘Oh my God. Everything is going downhill.’ “
Aydin said she is a student who is here for her education.
“I’m excited that I’m graduating, but I feel like I’m a student (of life),” Aydin said. “We’re learning something each day, even if we don’t recognize it. Just because I got the diploma doesn’t mean that I’m done.”
Aydin said she appreciates the role Su has played in her academic life.
“She’s going to be in my life no matter what,” Aydin said.