Before The New Term Begins: Redux

This is a revised post that is still applicable. It’s that time of year when most college students are thinking about the next year’s classes. This is a slow teaching time for most regular faculty (note this doesn’t include the sessional instructors, who usually have to teach full-time in order to stay afloat). One of the things that we forget though, is that this time of year is very busy for advisors and others who help students figure out courses and other important matter that is important to student success.

This quick note is a reminder for patience. Patience for the frantic student who needs a little reassurance about classes. For instance, I am finding that I am fielding more emails where a student really wants advice. “Which classes should I take?” A few have actually said, I want to know your recommendations. This is a big responsibility for me. Typically the student who asks, has already taken a course with me. So, I need to think about his/her interests and weigh my knowledge of the department’s courses. At first I would suggest all our courses, but now I am more careful. This is not based on content, but rather thinking more strategically about the student and her/his interests and possible grad school interests.

One common response from students is that they have heard that a colleague is a GPA buster. I always smile at this and explain that if the student wants to focus on Area A, for instance, in grad school that she absolutely needs to have a class with said colleague. The majority of the students come back to my office the next term and thank me for my suggestion. The other thing is that most students will do better in a course that interests them. I usually do not feel that this is a good excuse to not take a course. Also, our sub-fields are small and prospective grad schools and or entrance committees get used to seeing the same names and marks and they might understand that Prof. X is a tough marker.

I think that when I am queried–it is acceptable for me to make course suggestions to students. I am one of two undergraduate advisors in the department. About one month left until school resumes and I can honestly say that I’m ready to teach. But, that pesky need of having the syllabi done–not completed! Eeeps, yes, those syllabi will not write themselves.

Challenge Update

I am participating in a challenge with some of my colleagues at the University of Venus ( @UVenus ). We are taking special care to network and meet people across our campus. Given that I am the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus this provides me an easy way to do this, but I have also had a few coffee meetings to meet with different colleagues across the campus and would like to speak to how helpful this has proven during these last two months.

Most recently I met with the coordinator for the Anti-Violence Project and we are working on a shared conversation about safe spaces on campus and the university support of safety. These are just the early conversations, but it was great to have this meeting that caused us to find out that we share some of the same professional networks.

Last month I had coffee with Dr. Jentery Sayers from the English Department at UVIC and I was so impressed and envious with his courses and current area of research. I was happy to get some of the flyers for his course, “How to Network a Novel.” It looks like an amazing course and I have since shared the flyer with the students enrolled in my courses.

For the second year I am sitting on the December 6th memorial planning committee, and the committee is made of some different staff from last year and I have the opportunity to work with a great group of women from all over campus. And, I look forward to the events that we are planning.

I have also met informally and formally with different staff from the UVIC Communications team and have repeatedly found the team helpful and professional. If your campus has a communications team and you haven’t met them yet—get to it. They can help get you on the Experts Database (if your campus has one) and make sure that you are included in media releases.

And, the last thing that I spearheaded was the nomination of a colleague for a teaching award. This turned into more work than I anticipated, but it was a great process for my involvement. I contacted probably upwards of 60 people for the dossier and the file fielded some strong, personal assessments. Ultimately, I felt honored to play a small role in this nomination. It is important for me to note that this nomination was based on my position as the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus. I hope that next year the Caucus can nominate another woman on the Steering Committee. Part of my self-imposed mandate is mentoring and this includes peer to peer mentoring and support.

I have had a productive first few months for the challenge and look forward to the next few months!