What is a Departmental Advisor?
When you declare to Major in English, the department requires you to choose a faculty advisor. The reason the department does not randomly assign you an advisor is to enable you to take the initiate and to select someone who has taught a course you enjoyed or has sparked your interest in the field or someone whose web profile suggests that their research and teaching interests align with yours. Even so, you don’t need to have any specific connection – intellectual or course-related – to select a particular faculty member to be your advisor. All faculty fulfill this role and are more than happy to talk with you and to welcome you into the major. The faculty are less advisors in the bureaucratic sense than MENTORS of your intellectual development. You can think of them as experienced, interested, and committed partners in your journey through the major, and cooperative helpers as you navigate the requirements of the core and your selection of electives.
How do I choose an Advisor?
It sounds easy: just drop by a professor’s office hours! And it should be easy. Don’t let those office hours go to waste: professors are required to offer them and complain mightily when they are underused. So they will be delighted to see you. They will not be surprised when you ask them to be an advisor. If they have too many advisees already, they will direct you to an excellent alternative. If you prefer, email a professor in advance to set up a time to meet. If you are unsure whom to approach, drop by to see our Peer Advisors or Brian Kersey, Student Services Specialist, who are more than happy to put you in touch with one.
How do I develop my relationship with my Advisor? Why should I?
Think of your advisor as your mentor and use her/him as you would someone helping you advance your progress and educational growth through the institution. By dropping in to see your advisor at least once a quarter, you can get useful tips: how to craft your study list; what courses might especially interest you; how to take full advantage of the range of departmental offerings beyond classes, including undergraduate colloquia, the honors program, social mixers, internships, and research opportunities; how to think through your postgraduate opportunities. Our faculty possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge about the profession and life in general: use them to cultivate horizons for your long-term and short-term goals and to take best advantage of your time at Stanford. Conversations will flow naturally once you’ve taken the time to make the initial overtures of the quarterly meeting and, over time, you will build a mutually productive relationship. Why, in short, should you build this relationship? From your advisor you will gain:
- Advice on your academic plans
- Mentoring in an independent research project
- Introductions to colleagues within and without the department
- Letters of recommendation (crucial to all career plans)
- Consistent guidance for your intellectual pursuits
- Cooperative partnerships as you navigate the English Major