At my school it is absolutely possible for a professor to know their students name. There are a number of professors that know my name. I make a point to raise my hand in class and participate when I can. My favorite class has to be right now I am taking an Intro to Policy Analysis course. I absolutely love this course because the teacher is extremely knowledgable and he teaches the course very well. My least favorite had to be my Macroeconomics and Microeconomics courses. The reason being that I was not able to understand the teachers because they were foreign and their accents affected their teaching. I always pass the University Library to get to the Academic Podium and you can always find a large number of students studying there. Especially during finals week and around midterms there is not an empty seat. Many students here do spend their time in the library when they need to, and you can almost always find someone at the library that you know. I believe that in every class there is always a number of students who participate. There will always be those one or two students who always have something to say, however, it all depends on how confident a student is. Confidence translates into their willingness to participate. Teachers always encourage class participation and it is something that can get a students name out there, and to put a face to a name on that roster. I have absolutely found students having intellectual conversations outside of class, especially after a very interesting class. I experience it more often because I am a Public Policy Major and we carry out our in-class debates outside. The Public Policy and Political Science Department at the university are quite competitive. The requirements to enter into the Masters program at the Rockefeller School of Public Administration and Policy is extremely competitive. I believe that is because there are many opportunities for good internships because we are in the capital district. I have not spent as much time with professors outside of class as I would like, however I have spent a lot of time with my Teacher's Assistants. I have used them as a very powerful resource to help me with my papers and assignments in that class. I believe that the education at this school is something that will absolutely gear me towards a job within my major. Many teacher's in my department have first-hand experience with the courses they teach, so I feel that the advice that they give is something that I can take with me within my career.
Classes at Albany vary. I've had classes where the teacher couldn't pick me out of a lineup, and classes where my teacher knows my name and even comes up to me on campus semesters later to ask how I'm doing. Like any school, office hours are stressed. The trick to going from a B to an A, is the ability to go talk to your professor and show your face at their office. Professors here are generally very interested in your overall academic and social well being. Since the school is large, professors come from all different places, countries, and stages in life. While graduate students do teach lower level classes, this usually ends after your freshmen year when you no longer have to take General Education classes that are often 100 to 300 or more kids. UA students do have intellectual conversations after class. They just might be a little hard to hear in the bar. Students aren't competitive, they're actually usually very helpful. Classes are often run by a curve, so if you meet a friendly classmate, they will most likely help you out. I've made a lot of friends in class just by asking if they wanted to share notes or study. There is no sense of 'me first', more or less 'shit, did you do that homework?'. At Albany internships are really stressed. Job fairs and Internship fairs occur throughout the year and the school really pushes them. Advisors will be quick to let you know right off the bat how important internships are, and professors are usually eager to help you land one. You get the feeling very easy that the school wants to do your best.
The academics here are excellent. Most to all the professors are extremely passionate about their individual subjects/courses. This makes the lecture material extremely interesting. I am a biology major so I can only speak about the Biology department. There are some great professors here in the departments and there are some that are just there for research. The ones there for just research make the material more difficult than it actually is. To speak generally though, SUNY at Albany is highly ranked in various university polls as one of the best universities in the state and in the country in whole. There are some classes that might have as much as 450 students (mostly freshmen classes) and some might have as little as 15 students. The ones with less students tend to have more successful outcomes than the ones with a large number of students. This is mainly due to the difficulty in contacting professors.
SUNY is a very large schools, but it offers both large lecture classes and smaller classes in a classroom setting. While most professors in the larger classes don't know all the students names, if a student attends office hours the professor will most likely remember the students name. My favorite class at SUNY was Human Sexuality psychology, which may be controversial, but was definitely the most interesting class I have taken. Many students spend at least 4-10 hours a week studying outside of the classroom and often discuss materials and intellectual opinions outside of the classroom setting. School is very competitive and seems to be more competitive based on your major. My major is biology and psychology. Biology is extremely competitive and SUNY Albany's science programs tend to be more competitive, because of the extensive research options it offers to students.
The English department at UA is terrific - it's tight-knit and professors talk to one another and all know each other and are quick to share their opinions on their co-workers. There are some amazing English professors that I feel lucky to have had teach me. The GenEds are terrible and excessive and a waste of time - most students skip them as they're in 150+ lecture halls so attendance isn't mandatory. They tend to bring down your GPA because they're boring and useless. Professors that you get to know are great though and most that I've met outside of class are friendly and helpful. With the new nano-technology building, apparently graduating from UA looks great now. Hurrah for a waste of students tuition money, couldn't they have bought something useful to the students? Like ANOTHER fountain, perhaps?
we are in big lecture centers for most of your 100/ general ed. courses but after you become more major specific the classes tend to shrink. Or even when we begin to get further into the semester class attendance tends to be half then what it was the first week of classes. The only time you find out whose really in your class are on exam days. then i'd say its a full house. The professors generally make themselves available during their office hours or even before and after class. The school being a state school does make budget cuts due to the amount of money available which has made them cut some courses and some major all together but the University does its best to cope with the losses. Our School of Business offer a lot of great opportunities
Classes here are somewhat flexible. Depending on your preference, there are large classes with over 100 students, as well as smaller classes with under 50 students. Class participation is usually expected, especially for the smaller classes, but it is not always necessary. Some classes use "Clickers" which are a type of remote used to answer questions in class (professors use this to also take attendance). Some students are competitive. There are groups on Facebook for every specific school year (i.e. Class of 2014) where students who don't know each other but take the same classes can ask questions. People have formed study groups, bought used textbooks, asked questions about class, etc.
Academics in my school are very effective. Lots of the professors want their students to retain the information and give exams, homework and group activities that allow us to actually learn rather than remember. My favorite class was Culture diversity and human condition because it was a class that allowed students to teach one another. There were lots of students from different backgrounds and students had the opportunity to develop a new understanding of things we have only heard about sparking intellectual conversations outside of class. although i do not see my professor after class i feel that they are involved in my education.
GPA fact sheets seem to indicate that UA kids are above average, but the truth is tests here are just super easy (my program- ISP major, BUS minor, plus Gen Eds of course). There is a lot offered- someone could learn a lot if they wanted to, but testing is low to let people 'get through' and allow the university to make money. I've heard a dirty little rumor that most universities are money making businesses- and UA is one of those schools trying to make a buck over setting a high bar of academic excellence. UA fits the stereotype of adolescent baby-sitter University...
Professors know you by name once you get into your major. You also can reach them in the bigger classes during office hours. Academics also depend on the major. I'm in the library every week as a business major. Class participation is common in small classes. .The business major is super competitive and selective. There are plenty of unique classes you can take here for example I took a class on Exploration of Space and the Oceans. You also can choose an easier major like communications if that is more of what you are looking for.