Only at Emory: The Difference a Professor Can Make

By Joan L. Goldfrank 73C 76L

What I did at Emory College that I could not have done anywhere else?

I knocked on one of my professor’s partially opened door during office hours, and the welcoming voice on the other side said, “Come in.” As I opened the door wider, the voice continued, “Sit down. What are you thinking today?”

That experience makes the answer to the posed question crystal clear. My Emory professors made the difference. The professors were engaged with their students. They cherished the opportunity to teach us. They communicated their love for learning in and outside of the classroom. I felt supported by them. They encouraged us to look within and outside ourselves to find what kind of world we wanted to live in, what we would do with our lives, and how we would conduct ourselves. It was within the supported environment that we felt safe questioning and exploring.

Several years ago, I was interviewing a senior colleague as part of an oral history project. One of the questions concerned his college experience. He had attended one of the Ivy League colleges. He asked me to turn off the tape recorder, which I did. He then told me that he had felt deeply unsupported in college and did not want to discuss it as part of his oral history. I was surprised that after so many years he felt so strongly about this point. I was equally struck by how different my experience had been.

I must identify my favorite professor, Irwin Hyatt of the Department of History. Although I had an idea that I would be a history major before I entered college, I was convinced of this decision after taking an introduction course with Professor Hyatt. I then took every course he taught. I concentrated in Chinese history because of his inspirational teaching. He taught me to appreciate the importance of history and what history informs us about people. Professor Hyatt was also readily available outside of the classroom as I juggled a personal crisis and searched to find my path in life. He provided great support and guidance.

All these many years later, one of those voices in my head is Dr. Hyatt’s, reminding me not to be judgmental of and to try to understand others. It is a helpful voice. Therefore, it is just that simple. The Emory professors made the significant difference in my college career. Thanks, Emory, for providing me with such a unique and treasured opportunity.

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