UT, professors should do more to work with introverts

Sarah Alarcon

I’m the goofy girl who laughs loudly and gets kicked out of a Trump rally. People are surprised when I reveal that I’m a closet introvert. Being introverted isn’t always synonymous with shyness, but we do need time alone to reflect, process, create and energize. Introverts thrive in lower-stimulation environments as opposed to extroverts who prefer stimulation in order to feel their best.

Our society overvalues what Susan Cain, author of “Quiet,” describes as the “extrovert ideal,” and too often introverts are dismissed as less than or lacking. Studies show that 96 percent of leaders report being extroverted, and more than half of senior executives believe that it’s a liability for leaders to be introverted.

Introverts are artists, deep thinkers, problem solvers and integral members of our community. Instead of trying to change introverts, we should celebrate them and accommodate their needs so they can produce great work. UT professors should support introverts by balancing class discussion and group work with opportunities to work independently on projects and papers. 

Between one third to one half of  Americans are introverts. With these numbers in mind, it is imperative that professors consider introverts when designing lesson plans and assignments. Introverts like senior English senior Jennifer Fleury thrive studying independently and believe that class participation shouldn’t be mandatory. 

“Being forced to participate in class by answering questions is deeply uncomfortable … and I don’t feel I should be judged or graded based on my willingness to do so,” Fleury said.   

For many students, group projects and solo presentations are a nightmare. While it’s important for all students to be challenged and pushed outside their comfort zones, it’s also essential to consider that sharing is not as helpful in the learning process for certain students.

Lessons and assignments should be made with introverts in mind. If a college class is devoted solely to class discussion, professors risk the same students sharing every time. Instead, professors should provide alternatives and give introverts a chance to shine. Teachers could let students rehearse their thoughts with peers before sharing, submit reflections through Canvas, or post to a class blog. 

Group work should be minimal or optional. If students are asked to present, they should have the option of doing it with a partner. It’s a good idea to ask introverts to stretch themselves, just like extroverts are expected to work alone, but professors need to assess their classes and work for their students and not against them.

As a society, we need to reevaluate the importance of contemplation and take pride in decisions that come from sound reasoning. Not only do we need to encourage quiet leadership, we also need to allow creative students space to delve into creative work. We need to encourage students in liberal arts, business, STEM, architecture, design, art and music to work independently, as solitude is a catalyst for innovation. The theory of relativity and the work of Dr. Seuss would not have been produced if their authors didn’t have time alone to develop their ideas. 

Introverts don’t want to be pitied. Instead, work with us. Give us space and time alone to create and contemplate. Once we acknowledge and honor the strengths introverts possess, we will become a more balanced university that empowers introverted students to become leaders in their unique, quiet way.

Alarcon is a UTeach Liberal Arts student from Austin.