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From the College of Natural Sciences
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Come Prepared

Come Prepared

Dear Students,

I remember one of the first times I went to meet with a faculty member as an undergraduate. I had some questions that I needed answered, and “office hours” were the time set aside that I had access to the professor.  So I went, with some trepidation, to see Dr. Pellem Wilder to ask a question about organic chemistry.  I don’t remember the question.  But I do remember Dr. Wilder.  For years he proudly served as the University Marshall because he was the only person who could carry a large metal mace at commencement and not look a little crazy.  He was more than a bit intimidating (even without the mace).  But what I found was that he was extremely willing to answer my questions and talk about chemistry. In fact, he seemed to enjoy my visit. 

One thing that I know made this encounter turn out so well, was that I came to my visit prepared.   I had my questions in hand.  I knew he was both extremely busy and that he had lots of other students in his courses. So rather than just show up and wait for him to tell me something useful, I came ready with things that I needed to discuss.  This is an important lesson in life:  not just as a student, but in all of your interactions with other people.  There are lots of people who are eager to help you.  You will get the most out of them if you respect their time and come prepared. 

Often in my office hours when I ask students if they have questions, they say, “No, I just come to office hours to listen.”  Don’t get me wrong.  I love students coming to my office hours.  And there are times when just being in the room and soaking it in will help.  But I think that the students who come armed with questions get the most out of our interactions.  These don’t have to be specific questions about homework questions.  In fact, it’s better when they are not:  “How are these two topics related to one another?”  “What is the key concept from yesterday’s class?”  “Can you give me a real world example where that is important to understand?”

Coming prepared allows everyone who is meeting to make the most of their short time together.  We often bemoan “not having enough time”.  But rather than fighting what is surely a losing battle to find more hours in the day, we should instead think about how to use those hours to our greatest advantage.  There are lots of people in the College of Natural Sciences who are looking to help you.  Make the most of those opportunities by using the time you have with them to greatest effect. 

Going to see an academic advisor?  Research your major (or potential major) requirements and course choices in advance and come armed with specific questions. 

Looking to get help with a resumé with the Career Design Center?  Bring a full-fledged, finished draft so you have specific details to discuss. 

Going to see a faculty member to ask for a letter of recommendation?  Have all the forms, deadlines, and personal information on hand.

Meeting a teaching assistant for office hours?  First identify specific questions that address what you have not been able to figure out on your own. 

Arriving to a meeting prepared not only allows you to get more out of the time together, it also conveys that you value and respect the time that is being offered to you.  Such habits will pay off double.  Not only do you get more out of the time today, these people will be even more willing to meet with you in the future. 


- Dr. Vanden Bout


P.S. Download CNS Student Newsletter

P.P.S  Nominations are open for the Jean Holloway Teaching Award at https://texasexes.org/form/holloway.asp

P.P.P.S.  There is a band called 1023MB.  They don’t have any gigs yet.

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Tuesday, 31 January 2023

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