Sometimes professors run into a conflict that prevents them from making it to a class period they’re scheduled to teach. When that happens at Davidson College, the Center for Career Development has a message for them: Don’t cancel class.
Instructors can instead invite staff members from the career center to cover for them. The pitch: “Let us take that time and come in and do something meaningful with your students,” says Jamie Stamey, executive director of the center.
Here’s how it works. At the start of the semester, the career center sends out an email explaining the offer. It includes a link to a form that professors can fill out with the date they’ll be away; the sort of presentation they’d like students to be given; and some details about the class, like the number of students and when they’ll be graduating.
Professors can choose from a list of existing presentations, and career-center staff can tailor them based on students’ characteristics, like class year and major. Often, Stamey said, presenters will draw on Davidson’s data on what its graduates are doing six months after they finish college. For instance, presenters have shown first- and second-year students in a chemistry class how to use its tools to network with other chemistry majors.
The center asks professors for a two-week heads up about their coming absence, but does its best to help out when there’s less warning, too.
Last spring, when the career center made this offer for the first time, it got 20 requests and ultimately presented in 15 classes, Stamey says. This semester, it has already gotten 13 requests.
Offering to sub for instructors helps the career center get in front of more students. It also builds relationships with professors, Stamey says — even though they don’t usually attend the workshops themselves.
That’s something that the center is eager to do. Students respect their professors, Stamey says. When faculty members are the ones encouraging students to check out the career center, they’re a lot more likely to listen.
Ultimately, Stamey said, the center aims to help students understand how what they learn in class — and outside the classroom, too — can help their professional development. Running the sessions during otherwise unused class time is one way to help students connect those dots.
What do you do when you have to miss a class? Does your campus or department provide an alternative use of that time for your students? Tell me about it at
and your example may appear in a future newsletter.
Becky Supiano, Teaching Newsletter: The Chronicle of Higher Education.