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‘It’s as if everything is buzzing, almost electric’: Faculty reflect on first day of classes

Professor Shan Mohammed, a faculty-in-residence member, and Anthony Formicola, S'17, met for breakfast in the International Village dining hall at Northeastern University in this file photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The buzz on the first day of classes isn’t reserved for students alone. We caught up with faculty from across the university who shared their excitement about the start of the new academic year.

Carlene Hempel, teaching professor of journalism, College of Arts, Media and Design

There’s nothing like the energy on campus as classes start in September. Even the beginning of the spring semester can’t compare to what this feels like. It’s as if everything is buzzing, almost electric. And I love reconnecting with students I haven’t seen for months.

It’s also invigorating to see the faculty members from my department again. Most of them have been up to extraordinary things over their summer break. We always have a faculty retreat as classes begin in September and I love to hear about their projects, their triumphs, and even, sometimes, their tribulations that have happened since we last saw each other in April.

Our faculty in the School of Journalism has been together for many years, and we have grown to really know each other and each other’s families. It’s a gift to be among them and I reconnect with that gratitude when I see them again in September.

In terms of classes, I have a policy of never handing out a syllabus on the first day because I want to spend that time quizzing each of my students about who they are, where they come from, what they’ve done for classes and co-op, and what their hopes are for the future of their program. It all contributes to creating a fabric of experience with them, and incorporating that into who we are as a unit.

Auroop Ganguly, professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering

What is particularly exciting is the new students I will meet and the intriguing ideas and set of questions each of them will almost invariably bring to the table. We try to remember all our students, but there are almost always one or two students from each class who we remember for a long time, and who end up teaching us at least as much as we can ever hope to teach them.

For me, each new academic year brings a hard reset after what almost always turns out to be an exhausting albeit exhilarating summer. I run a Dialogue of Civilizations program where we travel halfway around the world. Research really picks up pace in the summer as well, as do national and international collaborations. We have a lot of travel. It is a different world for us in the summer, and the primary tradition I have at the beginning of the academic year is to re-orient my mind to the routine—relatively speaking, at least—of the teaching semesters.

Shan Mohammed, clinical associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Health Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences; faculty-in-residence

I really enjoy meeting new students and discussing how their coursework can help them in their pursuit of a life of deep personal and professional purpose.

As faculty-in-residence I’ve had the opportunity for three years to meet students and their family members as they settle into their rooms during move-in. There is a full range of emotion at the start of the year, but I so appreciate the pride and joy families and students take in being a part of the Northeastern community. This re-energizes me every time to be the best faculty member I can be.

Alan Mislove, associate professor and associate dean and director of undergraduate programs, College of Computer and Information Science

I love meeting all of the new students on the first day. Lately, I’ve been teaching the introductory programming course in CCIS, meaning a large number of my students are new to the university—and for many, this is their first college class, ever. In CCIS, we’ve been lucky to have a large number of students enroll in this class who are not CCIS majors, and I love having their different perspectives and backgrounds in my class.

Facetiously, my primary tradition each year is delinquently preparing for class. On a more serious note, I also make an attempt to memorize some of the students’ names from the online photo grid, as it’s fun to surprise some of the students.

Waleed Meleis, associate professor and associate chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

It’s exciting to see new students coming to campus with their families, with their entire college educations in front of them. We wonder what new directions their lives will take based on their experiences here.

Northeastern is such an exciting and vibrant place. I wonder how they will be able to select from the seemingly infinite number of opportunities available to them.