University News

Professors Work Toward More Inviting Office Hours

November 10, 2014
Author: Alex Homer
Category: Academics

Taking a page straight out of Pixar’s book, faculty and staff at Southern Utah University have worked to create a more inviting office hour environment for students and colleagues.

Todd Petersen, co-founder of the idea and current EDGE director, said that he and other staff wanted to use one of their required office hours spent in the Rotunda, located within the Sharwan Smith Student Center, because they believed that more interaction would happen between students and staff in a commons area.

Petersen also went on to say that it has been a great opportunity for colleagues to bounce ideas off of one another when before they would not have had an opportunity to collaborate.  

“Pixar’s offices are on this radial system where everybody has to come to the center to go to the bathroom and get mail,” he said. “What they notice is that people are bumping into each other on those trips. They see cool things happen when people are out of their offices and out from behind their desks, out in these common spaces.”

And that’s exactly what’s happening now in the Rotunda.

Dr. Grant Corser, associate professor of psychology, thinks the results are pointing in a positive direction, saying “People show up, or they just happen to be walking by and say ‘Oh, I have a question, is it okay if we talk?’ and I say ‘Yeah, this is an office hour for me.’”

Dr. Tyler Stillman, assistant professor of management and marketing, said the amount of students that visit him during his Rotunda office hour is night-and-day compared to those that visit him in his normal office hours.

“It seems that it’s easier for students to meet here and I don’t know why,” Stillman said. “I had office hours for three hours earlier this week and I had zero visitors. I’ve had three so far in the first half hour here.”

Corser said there can be a high level of psychological stress on someone when they are “walking on to someone’s turf.” And according to him these office hours significantly reduce that stress and also preach to SUU’s mantra of personalized education.  

After a few months of trial, students said they enjoyed the Rotunda office hours better with one stating, “When I come into a teacher’s office, it’s their office, but this is my space.”

Petersen believes that the Rotunda office hours say, “openness and transparency better,” something he hopes all staff and faculty with office hours will look as an opportunity to interact with one another.

“Dr. Stillman with business and I’m with EDGE, we really didn’t have cause to meet if we were teaching in our own buildings, staying in our own offices,” Petersen explained. “In this space, which belongs to everybody and at the same time nobody, is a great commons area."



Contact Information:
Jennifer Burt
435-586-1997
burt@suu.edu