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Back-to-school tips: Faculty, staff share their best advice for a successful school year

August 29, 2018 By Kayla Huynh

A new school year means new beginnings. It’s a chance to start the semester off fresh and on the right foot. What better way to do that than with advice from our very own experts?

With years of experience under their belts, our university faculty and staff know best.

We reached out to professors, from Michael Wagner to Christine Whelan, and administrators, like Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor, to share some back-to-school tips and offer their best advice to have a successful school year.

Here’s some of the wisdom they’d like to impart on students.

Make connections with professors and advisors

Photo: Christine Whelan

Christine Whelan

Come to office hours — seriously. If you come to see us, you’ll have the opportunity to tell us what interests you, ask advice about careers and choices you’re making, hear our stories and perhaps even gain a mentor and friend for life.

I wish I had gone to more of my professor’s office hours, but the ones with whom I did connect with have written me letters of recommendation and guided me as I made every big choice in my career. We still keep in touch.

So this year, make a commitment to go to each of your professor’s office hours at least once. Introduce yourself. Tell us why you’re here and what you want from your time at UW–Madison. Ask us some questions. We’ll be glad to see you.”

Christine Whelan,  clinical professor in the Department of Consumer Science

Emily Schmidt

“Advisors recognize that taking the time to get to know you, learning about your goals, as well as helping you to explore and navigate the myriad of opportunities available at UW–Madison is an essential part of your success.

In addition to meeting with us in person, we hope you’ll also consider attending the Majors Fair on Wednesday, October 24, from 3:30 – 6:00 p.m. at Union South. You can explore 100+ majors and certificates at one event. See you there!”

Emily Schmidt, Cross-College Advising Service Assistant Director and Senior Academic Advisor

Take care of yourself

Gabe Javier Photo: Bryce Richter

“Schedule things out – including and especially your down-time, meal times and self-care time.”

Gabe Javier, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Multicultural Student Center

Explore, explore, explore — you don’t have to have everything figured out yet!

Photo: John Karl Scholz

John Karl Scholz

“Explore – you don’t have to have it all figured out. In fact, I worry more about the students who claim to know exactly what they want to do than students who come in with curiosity and an open mind.  Take a broad set of classes and be open to learning new things, what interests you and what you get excited about.”

John Karl Scholz,  Dean of the College of Letters & Science

Photo: Studio portrait of Lori Reesor

Lori Reesor Photo: Bryce Richter

“Challenge yourself to explore programs, opportunities and places where you can meet people who are different from yourself.  Not only will you learn about other cultures and identities different from you, you will learn more about yourself as well.”

Lori Reesor, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Rebekah Pare

“The number one reason students choose to go to college is to improve their career options. So, don’t wait to start exploring careers! Career exploration will help you find inspiration, learn more about yourself, make the most of your classes, connect you with great people and give you new ideas for gaining those skills and experiences you’ll need.

Here’s a tip: you don’t need to have it all (or really anything!) figured out before you talk to a career advisor. They’ll help you at whatever stage you’re at.”

Rebekah Pare, Associate Dean of SuccessWorks

And finally… give it your all

Photo: Michael W. Wagner

Michael W. Wagner

“Take a chance on yourself. You deserve to be here. Give that scary, required class your very best shot. Build community with those who are like you and those who aren’t, so you can be supported and give support — do so with a genuine spirit, an open mind and joy in your heart. And take the chance to ask for help when you need it.

We are all in this together.”

Michael Wagner, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication