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Communicating with Faculty

Connecting with faculty members is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful college experience.  In a virtual learning environment, this connection may feel a little different but is no less important.  Check out the tips below to build a strong connection to faculty at CSUSM, both to your instructors and to faculty in your academic program or major.

CSUSM Faculty Care About You!

You may have heard that college professors aren't like your teachers in high school and that they don't have time for each and every student. That may be the case at other universities, but at CSUSM, our faculty care deeply about our students and often cite their connections to individual students as the highlights of their work. Never hesitate to reach out to any faculty member, whether they are one of your instructors or just happen to be in a field that you're interested in. We are all here to help you achieve your goals!

Finding Contact Information

If you need to contact a faculty member, you first need their contact info! All faculty associated with CSUSM should be in the main directory, which you can search on the front page (click the magnifying glass) or the search page. If you're looking for contacts within an academic department but aren't sure which faculty member to reach out to, find the department's website and look for "contacts" or "faculty."

Communicating Through Email

Outside of class, you'll most likely be communicating with faculty via email. Most faculty also have a phone number associated with their offices, but may not have regular access to that line right now, so unless they tell you otherwise, email will be the best method. The main tip to good email communiation with faculty is to try and make each email professional and meaningful. Our faculty are happy to help but they're also very busy, so make sure you're clear. Here are a few tips:

  • Identify yourself: You won't have to do this every time, but for the initial email, make sure you clearly state who you are and why you're writing: "My name is Crash Cougar and I'm in your HIST 130 class," or "My name is Crash Cougar, I'm a new student and I'm interested in majoring in History." Use your CSUSM email so the faculty member can know who they are working with.
  • Address them properly: We have instructors at all different educational levels at CSUSM, so not everyone is "Dr. Cougar." But many are! No matter what degree an instructor has, however, they are always a professor. So it is always appropriate to address them as "Professor (last name)."
  • Check your syllabus: Before you ask a question about the course, make sure you check your syllabus for the answer first. Instructors work very hard on their syllabi and it should be full of important information like due dates for assignments. That said, faculty are happy to provide clarification if you need it, so don't hesitate to ask.
  • Read before you hit send: Make sure to read through your email before you send it. Is it easy to figure out what you're asking for? Are there any spelling or grammatical erros that might get in the way? If it looks good, go for it!

Virtual Office Hours

You may have heard how important it is to attend your professors' "office hours." In academic-speak, "go to office hours" is just a way of saying "meet one-on-one with your professor." Some of your professors may hold traditional office hours in the virtual environment, where they set up drop-in sessions over Zoom or Teams, but often you'll just want to set up appointments directly. Here are some reasons you might want to attend office hours:

  • Ask questions about what you're learning: if you need help with any of the concepts covered in class, try asking your professor to explain it differently, or try explaining what you're having trouble with.
  • Ask questions about studying: different disciplines have different strategies for studying that work well. Try asking your professor what has worked for students in the past, or what worked for them when they were in school!
  • Review your work: Bring in your last paper or your last exam and ask both what you did well and where you can improve. Your professor might see a pattern in your work that you hadn't and might be able to help (or push you to be even better).
  • Talk about the future: Tell your professors about your academic plan and your future academic and career goals. Faculty are your best resource to progress along your path to graduation and set you up for success afterward. Even if your goals are in a completely different discipline, our faculty community is very tight-knit and your professor might be able to connect you to someone who can help.
  • Tell them what's going on: If you're having difficulty with anything outside of class, whether it is affecting your work in the class or not, faculty can be a resource that can connect you with help, whether it's on campus or off.