image of a professor talking with students

Keeping in communication with your student: Encouraging faculty connections

The New Student Academic Services unit housed within Student Housing and Dining Services is comprised of Orientation and Residential Academics. Our team is dedicated to supporting your students transition into and through UC Davis. 

You may want to know more about how things are going for your student academically, but you might not be sure what to ask. Or when you do ask, you are met with one-word answers from your student. You are a partner in your student’s success and if you find yourself unsure of what to ask your student or what they might be experiencing, we’ve got you! 

This is the second part of a series where we will highlight part of the academic transition your student might be experiencing and questions you can ask your student to help support them through this transition.

In October, we focused on Academic Rigor and Support. This month we will focus on Faculty Connections.

By now your student has become used to the fast pace of the quarter system and hopefully,  identified a successful routine or schedule. If it is your student’s first quarter at UC Davis they may still be adjusting and trying out different time management strategies, and that is okay. It can take a full quarter to adjust to the academic rigor. As mentioned last month, it is completely normal for students to struggle academically during their first quarter at UC Davis, but it is also important that they ask for help as soon as they realize they are struggling. 

One of the greatest resources that students don’t often take advantage of enough is professors. It can feel intimidating for students to approach faculty members, but there are many benefits. Your student has access to world renowned faculty doing research that is current and changing the world. During your student’s time at UC Davis, they have an amazing opportunity to do research alongside these faculty, but students have to take the initiative. The more you can encourage your student to have the courage to connect with faculty members, especially when it is intimidating or scary, the greater the opportunities your student will experience. 

A few ways students can connect with faculty:

  1. Attend faculty office hours. All faculty members are required to hold weekly times that students can visit their office to ask questions about class material. Office hours information can be found on the course syllabus. When students go to office hours, they should introduce themselves, especially if it is a large class and the professor doesn’t know students by name. It is also a good idea to have a couple specific questions prepared about the course material. Faculty have commented that they wish more students used their office hours. This is a great way for your student to stand out and make connections with faculty.

If your student has a time conflict, they can reach out to their professor via email and ask to set up a one-on-one meeting.

  1. Get curious about professors’ research.  Encourage your student to look into the research that faculty are conducting at UC Davis to find research that interests them, and contact that professor. A simple email expressing interest and asking to set up a time to meet to learn more about their research is an easy way to start a connection.  Professors are constantly engaged in their research, are passionate about it, and can talk about it for a long time. This is a great way to get to know faculty. During this conversation, students can also ask faculty questions about their lab and learn about any potential student research opportunities. One huge benefit of attending a large Research I institution, is the opportunity to participate in research and it is something we encourage students in all disciplines to participate in.

Faculty want to see students succeed but they also expect that they put in the effort to connect, to get to know them and their research and be proactive in their academic trajectory and success. There will come a time towards the end of your student's undergraduate career that they will need letters of recommendation and will most likely want one from a faculty member.  Taking the time to get to know faculty by engaging deeply in the course material and getting to know about them and their research will allow faculty to get to know your student and will help them stand out amongst the many other students.  When it comes time to request that letter of recommendation, it will be much easier for a faculty member to write a compelling and detailed letter for your student, which will benefit them in their next chapter beyond UC Davis. 

If you and your student are open to conversations about academics, we encourage you to check in with them. Below are some questions you can ask them to get an idea of how they are connecting with faculty members and to show your support.

  • Which professors have you visited during office hours?  What was your experience like?
  • What research are your professors involved in?  Does any of it interest you?
  • What other ideas do you have on how to get to know your faculty members?

UC Davis has many academic support resources available for students. If your student needs assistance and lives in the residence halls or The Green, they should connect with their Residential Academic Peer Mentor.  Peer Mentors are trained on the academic resources at UC Davis and to connect students with the best resource to help with their needs. We are here to help your student succeed!

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