Inspiring joy of learning rewards lecturer

Stephen Eliot Smith
Stephen Eliot Smith
It is the University of Otago’s Orientation Week. Reporter Molly Houseman puts the questions to people first-year students may come across as they navigate life in tertiary education.

Today she catches up with Otago University senior lecturer Stephen Eliot Smith who teaches first-year law.

Why did you get into lecturing?

When I was in law school in Canada, I had a lecturer I absolutely loved. He helped me gain a love of legal studies. I wanted to be like him and he helped steer me into graduate school and academia. I have never regretted the decision.

What is the strangest/funniest thing to happen to you as a lecturer?

During one lecture with about 300 students in it, the power went out and we were plunged into total darkness in the lecture theatre. There was a lot of screaming and laughing and thumping around. Who knows what was going on? It lasted for about two minutes ... probably the longest two minutes of my lecturing career.

What is the best part of your job?

The thing that is most rewarding is when a student thanks you at the end of the year for being their lecturer. It warms the soul.

What is something students may not know about you?

I have been married to my dear wife, Kim, for 22 years and we have had six children together. Six! Can you believe it? I cannot.

If a student misses a lecture, what can they do to catch up?

It is always a good idea to make a friend in a class so that you can borrow their notes if you need to miss a lecture. In LAWS101, we record the lectures and they are released for student access at the end of the week. Students can listen to the recording to catch up.

What is the best way to get assistance if a student finds themselves struggling with a class?

In LAWS101, each student is assigned to a senior law student who is a tutor. Each tutor has office hours dedicated to helping students who are struggling. This is an underutilised service and one that students should take advantage of, especially if they are struggling. My door is also always open to students who need an extra boost.

What advice do you have for students going into their first semester?

Being in university provides you with a level of freedom in your studies that you may not be used to. Everyone needs time for fun, but learn to balance work and play. Have a good time, but do not do it at the expense of your studies. Developing study habits early in your university life will serve you well throughout the years of your study.

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