2. Professors who speak about being first generation college students.
The first week of class can be extremely stressful and intimidating for any incoming first-year student. However, it can be even more daunting for someone who is the first in their family to sit in a college lecture hall. Having a professor who is also first generation, or openly offers support to those in the room who are first generation, can help ease some of that stress.
3. Professors who encourage students to prioritize their physical AND mental health.
Many of us know that we can grab a sick note and skip class when we get the flu, and we feel comfortable assuming that our professors would understand. But what about when we are overwhelmed with anxiety to the point that we are worried about completing an assignment on time? Or what if we are having a major depressive episode and just getting out of bed is a struggle, and going to class feels impossible? While professors are not, nor are they expected to be, mental health professionals, we all appreciate the sentiment expressing a willingness to accommodate students’ mental health needs.
The inclusion of these simple steps into a professor’s introductory week of class can really make students feel that much more welcome here at UNC. While most students are not gender non-conforming or gender queer, first generation students or affected by mental illness, the normalization of these lived-experiences makes it such that all students feel at home.
If you are a student and your professor made space for you in one of these ways, you should thank and validate them if you feel comfortable. If your professor didn’t, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn't feel welcome. However, you should feel empowered to approach them with any accommodations that you might need; we are confident that they’ll be amenable.
If you're a professor, teaching assistant or any kind of student leader, we encourage the inclusion of these tactics during this orientation period for students. There’s no perfect way to do it; there’s no script. But making an effort to start a dialogue with students of any minority group is better than saying nothing.