Advice for New Eagles: Part 2

We recently asked professors what the key to success is in a student’s first year at Mary Washington. However, being an Eagle is not just about achieving “success” academically but also about getting involved in our community. We asked Professors to elaborate on some general advice on how to embrace and become a part of our community. Here’s what they said:


April Wynn – Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences – Faculty Director of the First-Year Experience

Be yourself! Embrace what UMW has to offer and what you can contribute to the community. UMW is so special because of the contributions of every eagle – including you!

Randy Reif – Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Join a club! Or two, but don’t overwhelm yourself!




Jeremy Larochelle – Professor of Spanish

This is a wonderful and supportive community with a friendly and open-minded student body, engaging and accessible faculty, and dedicated staff that provide countless support services.  If you are in need of any type of support—whether academic or personal—do not hesitate to reach out to your FSEM professor, Academic Services, the Writing and Speaking Centers, or the Talley Center.  Keep lines of communication open with your professor and advisor so that they know what is going on.  We are all here to help you but will only know that you need if you reach out.


Chris Foss – Professor, English, Linguistics, and Communication

Read your syllabi, CHECK YOUR EMAIL, and use a calendar to log all your deadlines and due dates.


Betsy Lewis – Professor of Spanish – Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Be kind and honest with your fellow students and your professors, and especially be kind and honest with yourself. Embrace your new community and be an active part of it!


Mindy Erchull – Professor of Psychological Science

Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.  Whether it’s with a class in a new-to-you area, an instructional format that you’ve never experienced before, a club you never knew existed, or an activity you’ve never tried, take advantage of the next few years to stretch yourself.  Maybe you’ll realize ceramics or macroeconomics aren’t for you.  However, you might also find a major that’s a great fit.  Maybe you’ll find a lifelong hobby, or maybe you’ll have an interesting few hours doing something you never want to do again.  It’s okay to try things and have them not work out.  That’s part of life.  Discomfort and uncertainty are important parts of growing, so don’t shy away from these experiences. 


Julia A. DeLancey – Professor of Art History

Believe in yourself! You’re here because we already believe in you. Read and follow the advice people with experience give you! 😉 You have come to a really welcoming, supportive place. There are loads of people here who want to see you succeed. You can help them help you by asking for help when you need it; in many situations, asking for help is a sign of strength and maturity. If you don’t know who to ask, start with your RA in your dorm, or the professor or peer mentor for your FSEM.


Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich – Assistant Professor of German

My general advice would be to look at this first year as a time to explore your new surroundings, to enjoy your classes and meeting new people, and to try out different activities. It is important to focus on your classes and do your best to succeed in them, but don’t obsess about grades to the exclusion of all else. Be patient – you might not feel at home or connect with your ideal group of friends for a while, but it will come, and in the meantime, accept the transition period as such and enjoy the exploration.


Ian Finlayson – Associate Professor, Computer Science

My general advice is to get involved with at least one student organization.  There are dozens of clubs for any interest and they will help you meet people and feel connected.


Jeb Collins – Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Try.  If you feel stuck or that you can’t do something, just try.  If/when you fail, figure out why and then try something different.  Don’t get stuck in the cycle of thinking about a problem but never actually giving a go at the solution.  Just try something and then use the result, either success or failure, to learn something for the next problem.


Dr. Kim Gower – Assistant Professor, University of Mary Washington College of Business

Live it! UMW really is what it appears to be – a fun, collegial campus where you always see friends and always see new people to meet. It is up to you to engage and embrace, and those are great skills that will help you throughout your life. Clubs are EVERYWHERE and WE CARE ABOUT YOU!!! You get to make your experiences, so go for it!


There you have it. To summarize their great points, in case you zoned out around the third answer:

  • Join student organizations, being an active member of your community is crucial.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Step out of your comfort zone. See point two if you’re nervous about it.

They also want you to read your syllabus, but don’t worry, they’ll tell you that one again in case you forget. I hope you’re looking forward to meeting and forming connections with these professors this fall, we know they are!

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