Large connections advantageous of small schools

Published by Porter Merrell on

Melinda Benton (left), Mason Ramirez, and Porter Merrell discuss why attending a smaller school tends to be beneficial for students.
The Mainstream

While bigger universities have the marketing to make school look inviting, often these schools lack the deeper connection between teachers and students found at Umpqua Community College. 

At UCC most teachers go above and beyond to work with students for hours at a time to help finish a paper or help with homework and questions. Many students also go above and beyond. 

Mathematics Program Coordinator Mary Stinnett
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

“I have been teaching for 25 years, and UCC is different from any other college I’ve taught at. The students here really go the extra mile with their drive, and I feed off of their motivation,” said Mary Stinnett, a UCC math professor. 

Stinnett herself goes the extra mile. “When I was going to school in middle school and high school, I loved breaking down problems, and my friends would always come to me for help with their homework. When I started college, I had professors tell me that I couldn’t make it in a male’ dominated field, but I listened to my friends and my support, and now I can help even more people.” 

Stinnett said, “I love watching people grow and improve. I’ve seen students go from Math 20 all the way to Math 243. Watching them succeed through those classes makes me want to keep teaching.”

Another teacher who has been going above and beyond for 41 years is writing and journalism professor Melinda Benton. “Students never cease to surprise me on how individual they are. Since they are individuals, they need individual help, and that’s what I can give. I love helping students, and watching them realize more of their potential is so exciting.

Associate Professor of Communication Melinda Benton
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

“When I was a college student, I had some difficulties in some of my statistics classes. One of my professors would have a line stretching from his office down the hall because so many students needed help. This line would happen so often that I would be there for two to three hours, and when I would get within 3 or 4 chairs of his door, he would close his office,” said Benton. “I determined that I would never do that to students,” Benton said. 

Professors who make connections with their students help students see the value of the subject material much more than professors who depend on long lectures.

“Every time you meet a new person presents an opportunity to learn something new and every person is one of a kind. People are rare, and rare things are valuable. Every time I get to know a student I feel like I’m adding to myself.” Benton said. 

When students learn from their professors in settings like in Benton’s and Stinnett’s classrooms, they are also adding to themselves.

Marie Gamble, a math professor who has been at UCC since 1989, says her love for students drives her to be the best professor she can. “To me the students come first. If I can help them, I definitely want to do that. I just want to help them get that light bulb moment instead of crashing and burning,” says Gamble. “Here, since we are a smaller school, students have a better feeling and can get that one on one with teachers.”

Coordinator, Associate Professor, Adult Basic Skills Marie Gambill
Scott Campbell / The Mainstream

All of these professors put in the extra hours staying after their office hours are done to help students succeed. 

“Faculty contact outside the classroom has been linked to higher grade point average (GPA) and has been identified as an independent predictor of student intellectual development, even after controlling for students’ prior educational experiences or abilities,” says Mariana T. Guzzardo in “The Ones that Care Make all the Difference”: Perspectives on Student-Faculty Relationships.”

This article shows how much professors can help students with graduating by helping with students’ GPA like how Gamble stays after hours in her office or on Zoom just so she can see that light bulb moment to Benton keeping her office open no matter how long the line to Stinnett helping students go from Math 23 to the challenging class of Math 243. 

These professors care about their students and having this personal relationship is in some part due to having a smaller community college that encourages these relationships in smaller classrooms.

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