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By Eric Weld   Date: 1/26/12 Bookmark and Share

New Guide Offers Answers Not Found Elsewhere

Should I use his first name or call him Professor Jones? Why does it seem like everyone else is more comfortable speaking up in class? What should I consider when emailing my professors?

These are some of the questions you won’t find addressed in the Student Handbook or other official college information. Yet many students will encounter these issues and others for which there are no official protocols during their time at Smith.

To help ease the way, the Center for Work and Life has produced an online “toolbox” and a printed counterpart, called the “iCanSmith” pocket guide, which offer advice and instruction to help students feel more comfortable interacting with professors and tapping into college resources.

“I hope that this toolbox makes life at Smith feel easier for students to navigate,” said Jessica Bacal, director of the Center for Work and Life.

Bacal’s office plans to distribute the iCanSmith booklets in students’ mailboxes this week as classes begin, and posters and table tents will direct students to the online resource.

The online toolbox answers each of the questions with multiple responses from faculty members, as well as bulleted tips. In addition, Stacie Hagenbaugh, director of the Career Development Office, provides video responses to several of the topics and their pertinence to future professional uses.

The toolbox and iCanSmith guide grew out of interactions among Bacal, and other CWL personnel, and students and faculty. “We listen to students to get a sense of what would be useful to them—what new resources do they need in order to thrive at Smith and beyond,” said Bacal. The toolbox section on “How to Apply for Smith Funding,” for example, was developed after hearing students say “Funding at Smith is a secret,” Bacal explained. “We thought, let’s put it all online in a clear way, because it’s not a secret at all!”

Similarly, Bacal heard students saying they wished to gain comfort with speaking up in class, which inspired the toolbox section addressing the topic with faculty advice, an extensive list of tips, and video testimonials from students about their experiences.

Some of the toolbox topics take up where a fall series of workshops—part of the CWL’s “Passport to Life at Smith” series—left off, expanding on the workshops by opening the topics to faculty feedback and multimedia responses.

Ideally, Smith faculty will also become familiar with the online toolbox and its iCanSmith counterpart, so that they can steer students to their wisdom when questions arise about speaking up in class, how to make positive connections with professors, how best to use office hours, how and when to email professors, and others.

For the answers, check the Work & Life toolbox.

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