Connecting with Faculty

One of your best resources at NC State is the faculty.  Professors like meeting with students outside of class, and they want to help you succeed in their courses. And you can – and should! – get to know other professors too:  talk with faculty members in the major you’re interested in, or with professors doing research in a field that interests you.

WHY?

  • Get help with a class
  • Talk about ideas from class that excite you
  • Learn about a major or minor
  • Learn about research
  • Get advice about study abroad, leadership and academic opportunities, graduate and professional school, and careers
  • Ask for recommendation letters
  • Find a mentor

HOW TO FIND A PROFESSOR WHO IS NOT YOUR TEACHER

The two best ways to find a professor who’s not already your teacher are to ask other people (your current teachers, other students) and NC State’s website.  It is ok to ask your current American history teacher, for instance, who they’d recommend you talk with about Middle Eastern history.

To find a professor online if you want to talk about a major or minor:

To find a professor online if you want to talk about research:

  • You can use a department or college website – look for a link to “Research.” But professors also do research that crosses department and college lines, or they may be working in a department you don’t expect.  Start with the ncsu.edu “search” box, type the word research and then the area you are interested in (for example, type: research cybersecurity).
  • Once you have the names of some professors, read up on them online. That will help you think of questions to ask them.

ETIQUETTE

  • Office Hours: You can usually go to the professor’s office at these times without an appointment, but check the syllabus to be sure.
  • Dropping In: This is often ok, but be very polite when you stop by outside of office hours – knock, briefly introduce yourself, and ask if it is a good time to talk. If it is not, politely ask to set up an appointment.
  • Appointments: If you know how the professor likes to set up an appointment, do it that way.  Otherwise, calling and emailing are fine.  Professors get a LOT of email, so don’t be upset if you don’t hear back right away.  Follow up after several days – and try a different method.  The department office can be very helpful, too.
  • Prepare for your meeting: bring your textbook or homework or notes for class-related discussions; learn about the professor ahead of time and think of possible questions.
  • Feeling nervous? Practice with a friend!
  • Show up for the appointment a little bit early. If you really can’t make it, let the professor know ahead of time by email and phone, and then reschedule the appointment.
  • Say thank you, and also send a thank you (email is fine).

Here’s some good advice on talking to and emailing professors:

https://www.noodle.com/articles/how-to-talk-to-a-professor-explained-by-a-professor

http://www.northwestern.edu/academic-support-learning/academic-strategies/reach-your-academic-potential/emailing-faculty.html

FOLLOW UP

Keep in touch with your professors after the course is over; follow up with professors who help you learn about research and other opportunities.  You’ll establish a relationship that can help you in the future.

  • Stop by the professor’s office now and then.
  • Email an update – thank the professor for having met with you, and connect what you talked about with what you’re doing now.
  • Connect through LinkedIn.

ADVICE FROM AN NC STATE PROFESSOR

Here’s what Dr. John Morillo, an award-winning teacher and advisor in the English department, says about getting to know faculty members:

If you ever have a problem about a course, coming to see your professor in person indicates that you are serious about taking responsibility for your learning because you have taken the time to do more than just send a message.

I welcome visits that are not motivated by any particular problem because I get to know my students as people and to see how my classes fit into their busy lives. We faculty also have full lives beyond the classroom and office, and I’ve had many a conversation with students about music, sports, travel, and many other topics.

Probably most importantly, talking to your professors is the very best way for them to be able to write detailed and personalized letters of recommendation for graduate school, scholarships, awards, competitions, and employment. If I’ve met with students before they even need a recommendation, I have a good sense of how they formulate intellectual issues and solve problems, and of their character and personality—just the sort of things I’m asked to evaluate when I write letters of recommendation for students and are harder to do if I only know a student as a name and a grade on a roster.