Establishing Healthy Relationships With Graduate School Faculty

Students who are enrolling in a Master's degree program are in for a much different experience than they had in college. Many Master's degree programs are more independently driven, with greater emphasis on individual goals. This means more drive from you, but it also means that often you must actively solicit support from your professors. Building good faculty relationships is key to your success in a graduate degree program. Of course, you must be careful not to overstep your boundaries as a student. Some guidelines can help you to make the most of your interactions with faculty during your program.

For many students, a Master's degree program is an opportunity to find a faculty mentor or advisor. A faculty member who takes an interest in your success can help and advise you in your future plans. He or she can help guide your research and serve as an advisor when you craft your thesis. The value of good student-faculty relationships in a graduate degree program should not be underestimated.

Of course, there are some protocols you must observe. For example, respecting the privacy of your professors is key to establishing a good relationship. Your professors are likely more than willing to spend time addressing your questions and concerns if you respect their office hours or schedule an appointment in advance.

Your professors have families and responsibilities as well. Frequently calling or emailing your professors after hours is inconsiderate, unless you have been given express permission to do so. If possible, restrict your emails and calls to normal working hours. Try not to call or email with questions or concerns over the weekend, as this is their time to get caught up on home and family responsibilities.

Social networking with your professors should be handled with care. It is possible that your professors do not want to establish online relationships with current students, as they may reserve social networking sites for communicating with friends and family. If you invite a professor to be your Facebook friend, for example, and he or she declines your request, do not be offended. It may simply be his or her personal policy for compartmentalizing work life and personal life.

If you do interact with your professors socially on sites such as Facebook, be respectful. Even if you have a great relationship with a professor, it is likely that he or she expects to be treated differently from a close friend. Do not post anything that will harm your professor's opinion of you. For example, excessive profanity or inappropriate subject matter in comments, photos, or videos are likely not a good choice for sharing on a social networking page that your professors can view.

Finally, never attempt to flatter your professor or behave obsequiously. Most professors see through such behavior and do not reward attempts to curry favor. Gifts are generally inappropriate, especially gifts of monetary value. If you would like to show appreciation for your professor during a special occasion, a homemade edible item, a card, or a group gift given by your department is a better idea.

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