January 8, 2014
Hello! As a new face to campus, I wanted to thank the entire student body for a warm welcome to Kenyon and Gambier this past semester. I know 400+ of you came in with me, so congratulations to all first-year and new transfer students for making it through our first fall together. Thanks to many caring individuals - students, faculty, administrators, staff - we made it!
I know that I still have much to learn about Kenyon, its people, its environment, and its way of being, but I wanted to share some thoughts below for consideration from my early days on campus, as well as some suggestions for how to get the most of your time in college. These come not just from my personal experience working with students, but also from faculty and students here, all of whom have been amazing in sharing their perspectives on Kenyon life.
I hope the list below is helpful to you in some way. If not (or if some things help more than others), do make an appointment and tell me what has and/or hasn't worked for you here.
Wishing you all the best for the spring semester!
Hoi Ning Ngai, Ph.D.
Dean for Academic Advising and Support
Kenyon College, Edwards House, Second Floor
1. Faculty are supportive. Faculty are friendly. Faculty are accessible. But faculty are (generally) not BFFs, besties, or super casual. Therefore, avoid starting initial emails with "Hey, (professor's first name)." It's best to start formal and work your way to informal -- and only if faculty are amenable. If anything, just ask for the appropriate greeting/salutation at the beginning of the term.
2. Speaking of faculty being accessible, please give your professors 24-48 hours to respond to your emails. Most faculty are on top of their inboxes, but they shouldn't be expected to reply immediately. If you get a midnight response from one professor, don't assume you'll get a midnight response from another. Everyone manages their communication differently. That being said, consider how you'll deal with your situation if you don't hear back within your desired time frame. Make sure to have a contingency plan in mind.
3. Speaking of managing communication, please read your emails. While it's made clear from the first days of orientation that students are responsible for reading "student-info" emails and emails from faculty, many students have openly admitted that they don't do more than skim -- if they read at all. This is ultimately problematic because you're held responsible for the information provided. "Not knowing" doesn't warrant exceptions to deadlines and rules made clear in advance -- especially those made clear over and over and over...in advance. Specifically, please be aware of when the semester officially starts and ends. Travel should be planned accordingly. And unless special Dean's permission has been granted, all work is due by the end of the semester at 4:30PM. (P.S. If you think your friends, UCC-lings, residents, etc. should be the ones reading this list, please make sure they do so. Don't say I didn't assign you a task.)
4. Speaking of deadlines, it's important to meet them. They're not arbitrary. They're set for a reason -- to make sure work gets done in a timely manner. Faculty vary in whether they'll accept work late and how late they'll accept work. Don't assume that work will or won't be accepted. Most faculty will make their policies clear in their syllabi and/or in class. If they don't, and you want to know, then you should ask in advance. There's a big difference between getting a penalty and getting a zero.
5. Speaking of asking in advance, do reach out to faculty, administrators, and staff for help and support as you need it. Do go to office hours. Do ask for accommodations if you have documentation. Do ask for extensions if circumstances arise. But do all these things as early as possible. We have significant resources here, and it's important that you take advantage of them. Be aware that it's challenging -- and often impossible -- to help you after things fall apart. If you ask for help in advance, we can give you more guidance -- and usually more options.
6. Speaking of support, know that it takes many forms. From Counseling and Health Services, to Residential and Student Life, to peer advisors of all sorts, to friends, staff, faculty, and administrators, know that Kenyon is here to provide support. Know also that support may not always be words that you want to hear. Be prepared for words of praise, criticism, and feedback -- the more prepared you are, the better you'll take it all in, process it, and use it. This is a time to build resilience in all its many forms.
7. Lastly, I urge you to self-reflect and self-assess -- more and better. My sense is that society doesn't do enough to get people to think about who they are and why they do what they do. So, as students with more free time to think (than the average worker), consider these questions: Why are you in college? Why are you at Kenyon? Why are you succeeding? Why are you failing? What choices are you willing to take ownership and responsibility for? How will you make yourself better as a student and as a person? Consider the recent article I posted on the Academic Advising Facebook page.
I look forward to working with more of you in the months to come! And if you'd like to make an appointment, please check out the on-line scheduler on the Academic Advising page.
Warmest (literally) regards,