Engaging with Faculty
Developing connections with faculty is a skill that is useful to all students, and will also be useful to you as you learn to build networks with other professionals post-graduation. Networking is just the development of mutually beneficial relationships, and you and the professors in your department/program both have valuable information to share with one another. Here are ways to try to build support for your efforts from faculty.
- Identify the faculty member who will be your main contact person in the major/minor. If the faculty member (Chair or UAH) is less responsive, try the other one. If it’s difficult to arrange the first meeting, be persistent. Offer several times at which you and the other UDRs are free each week, and if the professor does not initially reply, ask again in the following week.
- After arranging via email the first meeting with this individual, inform them that Best Practices for UDRs involve meeting at least once a month with the main faculty contact in the major/minor. Ask to set up your appointments for the semester.
- Before the first meeting, brainstorm about concerns and possible solutions regarding the program (e.g., number of majors/minors; enrollments in courses; participation in departmental honors; assessment of learning goals; diversity and inclusion goals, etc.) so that you are ready to suggest topics when you meet.
- At the first meeting, ask the professor what s/he believes to be the strengths of the department/program and the strengths of the undergraduates who choose to major/minor in the program. Next ask in what ways s/he believes UDRs could best advance the interests of the major/minor. What concerns regarding the program do the faculty have? Be prepared to suggest possible solutions to the issue and/or programming initiatives, which you can then discuss with the professor. Ask her/him what s/he thinks of your ideas, and if s/he has improvements to suggest. Begin a dialogue about your initiatives for the term.
- If this meeting does not go as you hope it would, ask if there are others in the department the Chair/UAH would suggest you meet with, or inform her/him that you will also be having a similar discussion with another/other member of the department/program.
- When asking faculty to participate in an event/initiative, be as specific as possible about the goals of the program, and why you want them to participate. Let them know what they will be expected to do, and also ask for additional suggestions. If you are flexible on dates and times, offer more than one option.
- Be enthusiastic! Ask for suggestions and feedback.
- Get to know the faculty, by sharing things you especially appreciate about the department, and your own goals for students who are majoring or minoring. Ask the faculty members about their backgrounds (review their profiles in the Brandeis Faculty Guide first), and let them know that other students are also interested in getting to know about their professional pathways and current research and teaching interests. Consider asking more about the professor’s research interests, what universities they’ve attended, other jobs they’ve had. Tell them about what you are doing on and off campus, and about your academic and career goals, too.
- Take advantage of the Student Union sponsored "Take Your Professor to Lunch" biannual program or simply extend an invitation to have lunch together in the Faculty Club.
- If these initial efforts are unsuccessful, contact Elaine Wong and Joan Tarkulich to discuss possible troubleshooting solutions.