Building your academic network
Building relationships with some key individuals can enhance your access to information, advice, and support. Developing these connections will help you participate more fully in the Stanford community.
Who's on Your Team?
The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) offers a range of academic advising options. These include your Undergraduate Advising Director with an office in the residences and, for student athletes, your Undergraduate Advising Director for Student-Athletes, who can help you navigate University policies and procedures, find opportunities, and make decisions that are a good fit for you and your goals. In addition, Undergraduate Advising Directors are located on the first floor of Sweet Hall and focus on: pre-professional pursuits (pre-law, pre-med, pre-business, pre-education), transfer, co-terminal students, or Leland Scholars. Leverage their expertise by seeking advice early and often!
Student Services Officers
Did you know that virtually every department or program on campus has a staff person who works directly with undergraduate students? Get to know your friendly Student Services Officer! They are the people primarily responsible for processing your major declaration, organizing events for majors, sending emails about opportunities, tracking major requirements, and so forth. These hardworking professionals have a wealth of information, insight and experience to share.
Many departments have student peer advisors, who serve as well-informed ambassadors for prospective majors. Peer advisors are trained to answer questions about classes, declaring, opportunities within the major, and other relevant topics. They will usually have open drop-in hours, and you can bring very informal questions. They are a great starting point if you are considering a major, even during your very first quarter here.
Once you have declared your major, get to know your departmental advisor. Take the initiative and stop by during office hours so that you have an opportunity for a real conversation. Your advisor can help you plan a strategy for taking the greatest possible advantage of your undergraduate education. This can involve advice on your pathway within the major, research opportunities, and post-graduation planning. These conversations follow naturally once you have made the initial effort to talk to your advisor about your interests and aspirations.
Did you know that Stanford has an alumni mentoring program? The Stanford Alumni Mentoring (SAM) program is a great way for you to connect with a mentor who can introduce you to new places, people and ideas; who can encourage and support you; and who can serve as a contact and resource as you navigate your education, bringing your interests and plans to fruition. These mentors can help you early on, as you explore your different academic options, or later, as you link your Stanford experience to future opportunities.
While you generally do not have to do much formal preparation for a meeting with your Undergraduate Advising Director, your Undergraduate Advising Director for Student-Athletes, or a peer advisor, you may want to prepare a bit more carefully when you are meeting with faculty and with alumni. Although networking with faculty and alumni may seem intimidating, a few tips may make it a lot easier:
To make the best of your academic network, be sure to think carefully and in advance about what you want out of your contacts and the questions you would like answered. The more you know about your own goals, the easier it will be for others to help you.
Do Your Part
Successful connections are authentic and reciprocal. This means being open-minded, respectful, and clear about your respective expectations and responsibilities. Be proactive and consistent: your mentor may be busy at times, and a tactful inquiry may remind them to prioritize your relationship over competing commitments.
Networking is not just about meeting people, it is about connecting. You can extend your own network by helping others extend theirs. If you know two people that you think might benefit from or enjoy getting to know one another, introduce them! Soon enough, they may return the favor.
Remember: when you meet someone, follow up and keep in touch! You can keep your relationships strong by going to office hours, meeting up for coffee, or even connecting over email. If you're not sure what to say, you can always ask for recommendations about classes to take, books and articles to read, or advice on how to gain experience in a certain field.