Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Advice for in-coming Masters Students

Each incoming student in the Faculty of Information is assigned to a faculty advisor before they arrive. Last year, I prepared an "advice" document to share with each of the students who were assigned to me. I also shared it with some of my colleagues. Admissions Officer Laura Jantek suggested that I write a blog post with my advice so here it is!

Embarking on a Masters program is an exciting opportunity for life-long learning and professional and personal development. As a faculty member, I am looking forward to working with you to help fulfill your personal goals in this journey. We are here to provide advice and guidance but ultimately you are responsible for your success and attainment of your goals. You will be faced with several decisions during your program and your advisor may be able to help you learn how to think through the various choices and learn from making those decisions.

If you haven’t already done this, it is important for you to understand what motivates you. Take some time to explicitly articulate your personal and professional goals within this program. Doing this will help guide your decisions and the choices you make. Think about the following:
  • Why you are here in the program
  • What you hope to learn and accomplish
  • What kinds of situations make you feel satisfied, frustrated, anxious, proud
  • What are your preferred learning styles
  • What are your short-term goals
  • What are your long-term goals and aspirations
  • What are your areas of strength and where you wish to gain experience
  • How you define success

There are resources available to you to help you learn these things about yourself:
  • There is a temperament study you can do (the basic one is free).
  • There is a portfolio requirement for the Masters of Library and Information Science program at the University of Washington. The requirements of their portfolio program might be a good guide for you in determining your areas of strength and areas where you wish to gain experience.
  • Your friends and family.
If you feel comfortable, share your goals and motivations with your advisor so he/she can help you achieve them during your time in the Faculty of Information. You may wish to keep a journal where you can keep track of different situations and experiences, what you did, and how things worked out. A word document, a blog, or locally-kept html document would work well.

There are many ways your advisor can provide advice throughout your time in the Faculty of Information. Here are some examples but there may be others that will be useful to you:
  • Helping you reach decisions by listening to alternatives you’ve identified
  • Broadening your network of people and organizations by introducing you to people and groups
  • Sharing their experiences from their own work/academic life
  • Helping you balance your school with the rest of your life activities (‘work/life balance’) by sharing strategies learned over the years
  • Identifying opportunities for career development, leadership, projects outside your class work that will help you achieve your goals
  • Providing advice for job interviews and finding a job
Think about where you would like your advisor to help you achieve the goals you have set for yourself. In general, as an advisor, I expect students to investigate issues and think about them before coming to me. Bring me various alternatives that you have discovered yourself and then ask for advice and guidance on the different alternatives.

There are many questions and issues you will come across where your advisor will not be able to help directly. For example, we will not help you complete assignments for your classes and will not intervene between you and your class instructors. In those cases, your advisor can provide general advice and strategies that will help you manage the issues yourself. And remember, advisors will not have all the answers!

Finally, each of us advise many students, teach courses, conduct research, and participate in conferences, etc. And you are also busy. Time is critical for all of us—so make (and keep) appointments with your advisor, decide on the best ways of communicating and meeting, and come prepared for your discussion in order to make the best of our time together.

We all look forward to getting to know you and sharing in your graduate school success!