The photo accompanying this article shows Dr. Carolyn Forestiere of the Political Science Department chatting with a student. See how happy she looks, and how interested in what the student is saying? This is not just a staged photo, but a realistic representation of a positive professor/student interaction at UMBC. Maybe the student is visiting to discuss a possible topic for a class paper. Maybe he is asking followup questions from the lecture he attended earlier in the day. Or, perhaps he wants suggestions on how to study more effectively for an upcoming exam. These are all excellent reasons to talk to a professor.
Here are some tips about why and how you should talk to your professors at UMBC.
Reasons to Connect with a Professor
- You learn more! This is especially helpful if this is a course for your major, minor, or directly related to what you want to do as a career.
- You get the inside scoop on jobs, internships, research opportunities, or scholarships.
- Professors can serve as great references for jobs, graduate school, scholarships, internships, and other opportunities.
- Professors can be great at suggesting courses to take, career insight, and potential majors or minors.
Four Easy Ways to Connect with Professors
- Attend office hours
- Make an appointment
- Attend lectures, review sessions or other events held by the department
- Run into professors in the Commons, the library, or wherever
INSIDER TIP: Sending an email can help break the ice before an actual meeting
Good Times to Connect with professors
Connect with your professors early! Don’t wait until 3 weeks before the semester ends to make that first contact with your professor.
Ask follow up questions after class while they are still fresh on your mind.
If your academic advisor is a professor, use advising sessions to ask him or her questions about their field and opportunities in that field.
Always greet them when you see them on campus or around town. If they do not remember your name, this is a great opportunity to remind them of your name and what section of their class you are in.
Keep in touch with professors after you have completed their courses. This is a great way to maintain connections. Keep them updated on your progression through courses and the job or graduate school search.
Connecting with Professors using E-Mail
Do not expect professors to answer emails instantaneously. Two or three days is a reasonable amount of time for a non-urgent question. Two hours is not a reasonable expectation.
Always be businesslike in e-mails. It is never ok to address your professor as "Hey you" or leave the salutation blank. Always identify yourself in e-mails. Some professors teach literally hundreds of students in a semester. An example would be "Olivia Pope from your 9 am POLI 260 class." E-mails to professors should be more complete and formal than e-mails to your parents or close friends!
If the topic is major or sensitive, use an e-mail to set up an appointment to meet in person. Questions about grades, requests for letters of reference, and discussions about your post-graduate plans are all topics that need to be discussed in person.
The Most Important Tip of All
BE RESPECTFUL OF A FACULTY MEMBER’S TIME!
Examples of being respectful of time:
- Don’t ask a question if the answer is already printed on the course syllabus.
- Be on time for any appointments to meet.
- If you need the professor to do something, ask them well in advance.
List of UMBC Professors Not to be Missed (just a few!)
CHECK YOUR ANSWERS TO NAME THAT PROFESSOR (in the e-mail)
Professor who used to be a ski racer and now studies ravens and orioles?
Prof. Kevin Omland, Biology
Professor who was a guest on the Colbert Report?
Prof. Tom Schaller, Political Science
Professors who lived in Sri Lanka, Australia, Morocco, or Ghana?
Prof. Bambi Chapin, Sri Lanka, Anthropology
Prof. Tim Nohe, Australia, Visual Arts
Prof. Samir El Omari, Morocco, Modern Languages, Linguistics, etc.
Prof. Tyson King-Meadows, Ghana, Africana Studies and POLI
Professor who writes and publishes novels when not teaching Mathematics?
Prof. Manil Suri, Mathematics
Prof. who has an art gallery in her home?
Prof. Carolyn Forestiere, Political Science
EXTRA CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION
What are some helpful tips that you would give another student who is trying to connect with a professor?