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
- 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.