It is common to feel intimidated by the thought of approaching an academic member of staff, but it is important to remember that their role extends beyond the lecture theatre or seminar room. They aren’t just invested in your academic lives, but your welfare, too.
You will have been assigned a Personal Tutor during the induction stage of your course, and their information – including their name and university contact details – should be accessible on the Newcastle University App.
You may never have had the chance to build a rapport with a member of staff before, in the way then you can with your Personal Tutor; and despite how embarrassed you may feel about breaking the ice, they really aren’t as scary as you might think!
While there are the conventions of writing a formal email to a member of academic staff (Dear Dr/Professor First and Surname; Kind regards, First and Surname; and no emojis, etc), most staff members will insist you call them by their first name. Yes, this does seem rather strange when they introduce themselves with their full title on your induction PowerPoints, but it honestly does break the ice.
As the name suggests, Personal Tutors are there to help you personally, whether this be with academic worries or how to approach a financial issue. However, in the rare case that your Personal Tutor does not help in the way you expected (or needed), other academic staff are there to help, too. Of course, we get on better with some people than we do with others, and you may find you get on a lot better with another academic staff member; this is also okay!
It is important that you realise many staff members will go above and beyond in order to help you and no question is a silly question (they will have definitely heard it all before!).
A wonderful example of this is a Professor in the School of History, who went above and beyond to help a student who was not feeling great during their first few weeks in Newcastle. She created a connection with the student and gave them ways to get out of the awful situation they were in. In fact, she gave her own home address and contact details to this student; giving them permission to contact her if they needed in hours when the University was closed. She also made contact with the student a few weeks later to check all was okay!
In short, it’s worth remembering that academic staff can be more helpful than you may think. Not only will they be giving you references after your degree, but they have years of knowledge and plenty of advice to give.
Feature image: Pixabay @kherrmann