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Who Are Our Students?

When I was in undergrad, I had the privilege of studying abroad and taking a course (STS 323 – World Population and Food Prospects) with Dr. Bob Patterson. Dr. Patterson is an amazing professor with more life experience than most professors in his department combined. He is beloved by current students and alumni, and he even has a Facebook fan page (even though I don’t think he’s on Facebook). Based on my own experience, I don’t think Dr. Patterson is so beloved because of his ability to bring high-profile grants into the department, his publication productivity, or his large research group — it’s because students can tell that he really cares about them. He is one of the most genuine men I’ve ever met, and he has the emotional capacity of the Atlantic Ocean. You could sit in his office and tell him anything and he would listen to you like you are the only important thing in the world to him in that moment.

On his office door, he has this posted:

Who are our students?

A student is…

  • The most important person in our university.
  • Not an interruption of our work – they are the purpose of it.
  • A necessary part of our “business” – they are not an outsider.
  • Not a cold statistic – they are a flesh and blood human being, with feelings and emotions like yours and mine.
  • A person who brings to us their needs and interests – it is our privilege and responsibility to fill those needs and interests.
  • Deserving of our most courteous and attentive treatment.
  • A full partner in our effort to cultivate wisdom through knowledge.
  • The lifeblood of this and every university.

Dr. Bob Patterson, NCSU Crop Science


“You know, my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I learned that my interruptions were my work.”

Henri Nouwen (Reaching Out).

Why is he so beloved? Because he cares. That’s what students really need. May we all learn from his example.

Dr Patterson, right, with my family, who visited after my study abroad courses were finished, 2014.

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