Prepare for a successful Fall semester: Communicate with your faculty (A message for new and continuing grad students.)
The new semester is starting and we know that first and second year graduate students are generally immersed in classes, while more advanced doctoral students are working on experiments, preparing for exams, writing the dissertation, preparing for the defense, and preparing for a job. As part of the writing, studying, and preparing, it is important to note that all graduate students (regardless of status, whether in the first year or in the last semester of PhD candidacy) must maintain strong levels of communication with your faculty members. If you attended the 2012 Summer Success Institute, you heard about the importance of working with and connecting to faculty in several of the presentations. Earlier in the year, we posted 5 things that you should do to be successful BEFORE classes begin.Now that classes are starting, let’s talk about 5 things that you should do DURING the semester as they pertain to faculty/student interactions.
- Go to office hours for your faculty members … all of them. The Guaranteed 4.0 Book by Donna O. Johnson and Y.C. Chen describes the POH – Professor’s Office Hours as a must. Talk to your professors about the content that they taught in class. Talk to them about updates in the field (you are graduate students, therefore you should be able to “see” your research and topics in everyday life, in the news, in the latest journal articles, etc.) Discuss your understanding of what they are teaching. [Faculty pay attention to the people who are coming to their office hours. Ask questions! Discuss the research! If something isn't going well, and the faculty are asked about the student, if they say "well, _____insert name ___ never came to see me," then there will be an assumption that the student isn't serious.]
- Always keep your appointments! If you are going to be late, contact the professors in advance. If you need to request a change of appointment date or time, contact them in advance with the request. Once you make a change, do not continue to make changes. Try to maintain your scheduled appointment. [Regularly missed appointments make faculty wary of trying to make future accommodations for students. Don't fall into the category of having a reputation of missing appointments.]
- Go to the department’s seminars and ask questions. Faculty need to see that you are engaged in scholarly pursuits. [All graduate students need to attend the departments seminars and colloquia, even when it is not "mandated." Schedule it like a class. This is an unwritten rule.]
- Go to your advisor’s and committee members’ research talks. Whether the talk is within your department, or in other departments, or even at a conference that you’re attending, you should be in the audience. You should also go up to them after the talk and let them know your thoughts, ask additional questions, share some praise, or ask about something that wasn’t clear. [This is an unwritten expectation.]
- Make sure that you talk with all of the faculty in your department regularly. It’s not good enough for you to know your faculty. They need to know you. This is simple. They should know you beyond what your admissions file says, and beyond what the grade beside your name says on Blackboard or their grade book. This connection doesn’t need to extend to sharing personal business. The faculty in your department should know about your research interests, your career aspirations, your skills, and your ideas. You, the graduate student, need to open the lines of communication and make plans and time in your schedule to talk with your faculty. Some faculty have open door policies, some will talk with you by appointment, and some will have conversations with you at departmental events.
Don’t view talking with the faculty as a chore. They are people too! Enjoy the character-building exercise of taking time to know people of different academic ranks, and people with a variety of personalities. Strengthen this attribute. It will serve you well, both as a graduate student, and as you progress in your career. Have a great semester!
The text content of this post was compiled and written by the staff of PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP and may not be copied without referencing the PROMISE organization, as “PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP”.
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