Monthly Archives: October 2015

From a liberal arts/humanities professor:

Professor Lynn Huber (of Elon University) has four recommendations for being “more than practical” when choosing a major and navigating your early college career. You’ll note she recommends pursuing your passion. Yours. Not your parents. Not your favorite high school teacher’s. Yours. To pursue it, you need to find it. Explore a variety of courses. Actually dig in, get connected, find out what your passion is. Then go after it.

She ends her piece with this paragraph:
“And I didn’t say don’t major in marketing, strategic communications or any other number of professional school majors. If you love it, you should be there. But if your passion is in another field, you’re selling yourself short by staying there. Start doing what you love now. It may be the most practical move you can make for the future.”

Elevator Pitch

Transfer students, at new bachelor’s granting institutions, this blog is especially for you. It has value for all readers, but I write it with you in mind.

Since you started at your new college have you been referring to yourself as a transfer student? For example, when introducing yourself in class, or to others, have you been including the statement “I’m a transfer?” Or, when you are asked a question about the current college, do you find yourself saying “I just transferred here.” Or might you be including a transfer disclaimer in comments you make? I noticed this habit with the class of transfer students I am co-teaching. After the third week of the term, I reminded them they all are transfer students and they do not need to identify as such, in our class or other places.

Identifying as a transfer student is not bad, but it does not need to be used in all settings. I suggest students use it as an advantage, strategically. Here is an example.

Recently, the students I work with listened to, and asked questions of a faculty panel who were addressing how undergraduates get involved with research. Notice I used the word ‘undergraduates’ – this can be a useful identifier at a large research institution that has thousands of graduate students on campus. At the conclusion of this class session, I asked these students to write an elevator pitch they could potentially use during faculty office hours (or a meeting over coffee – *cough, last week’s blog) in which they would be asking for advice on how to get involved in research. This assignment was met with looks of stress. What will I write about? a few asked, to which I replied, “write about your greatness.” Greatness? Yes, what is special, unique, interesting and great about you? What are your skills, experiences and talents? Here is a place were you can emphasize all the benefits of being a transfer student.

Transfer students often arrive to the bachelor granting institution….
* having done significant research on their major and the faculty teaching in the discipline.
* with a clear vision of their future career and its pathway.
* with more advanced life experiences.
* with a unique perspective on higher education and its value.
* with research topics in mind, or somewhat developed research ambitions.
* having done research on the campus and its resources, and a plan to take advantage of them.

Many transfer students have moments of feeling like they are at a disadvantage, but honestly, all students have those feelings. There are plenty of third and fourth year students who started at this school still wandering around a bit lost. The quickest way to find your place is by developing a relationship with faculty in your major, and the best way to do that is through face-to-face conversations and confidence in yourself. Utilize your transfer student benefits and develop your elevator pitch; articulate your greatness clearly and be proud of who you are!

Two Coffees

A student just passed me, walking from a parking lot toward campus, with a coffee cup in each hand, a textbook squished to her chest, and bag dangling from of the crook of her elbow. I am hoping one of those drinks is for her professor. Yes, you read correctly: for her professor! Are you shocked by that statement?

Students, how much do you know about the professors teaching you this term? Have you looked at their faculty webpage? Have you read their CV (a CV is an education resume and if often on their website)? Do you know what type of research they specialize in? How many publications they have contributed to, or books they have written/co-authored?

Frequently students tell me, ‘I emailed my professor but s/he hasn’t gotten back to me.’ In the case of the students I work with, the comment often pertains to the signing of a form which has a looming deadline, so the meeting/signing is important. Bringing this back to the student with the coffees, I ask my students this “when you emailed the professor, did you offer to take her/him to coffee or tea?” If you are willing to spend $2-5 on a friend’s beverage, why not make the same investment on a professor who you want to solicit ideas from, ask to oversee a special project, participate in research in their lab, write a letter of recommendation, etc. Oh, and do NOT FORGET these are the people grading your academic work!

A cup of coffee could go a long way in establishing a positive relationship. I think the value of the student-professor relationship is way more precious than the cup of coffee, and the conversation you have in the java line is worth a lot more than $2!

Miscellaneous collection

So, what activity/activities did you engage in these past 10 days or so? Me? I went to a movie in the library (it was on language revitalization among the Lakota); I attended a fall picnic; and, I went to a 1/2 day conference which gave me recent updates about human origins. Three activities — they all were excellent ways to spend my time; I met new people; made connections and networked (and, I got to eat pizza at one event, pita and hummus at another, and a box lunch from the last one — yes, even faculty are motivated by food!). In short — I got involved last week in some on-campus events and it was excellent. I learned things and met new people. I hope you also joined some activities and met some new folks — if not last week, then do it in the coming weeks.

Next: the library! Have you explored your library yet? I will admit I am “used” to libraries; I think I know how they work. But, I also recognize that all libraries have their own organization (yes, they all may use Library of Congress as their numbering system, but which floor the A’s start on and which floors the P’s start on, isn’t consistent!). This past week I also took the opportunity to acquaint myself with my new institution’s library. I received hand outs; I talked to the reference librarian; and, I walked amongst the books. It is important to do this. Even if most of your everyday resources are online, at some point you are going to need your library (if not the stuff in it, then certainly the people in it!). Better to be somewhat familiar now, than to wait to last the minute.

You may have gotten a tour of the library during orientation. But, that was forever ago and you weren’t really paying attention, right? So, go back. Sign up for a tour. Ask a specific question of the reference librarian. Go to each floor of the library and just see what’s there. Trust me; it will be beneficial. My library is open 24 hours a day — it is a brightly lit spot to study, with lots of resources. But, remember — if you are there late at night (or even during the day) — study in a well-lit section where other people are also present. Don’t be all alone in one area where it is isolated. Libraries might appear to be safe, but caution is always warranted.

Go to your library! Check IT out; and check a book out, too, while you are there. You won’t regret how the familiarity of the building and the stacks (shelves where the books are) will help you later on!