Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Proactive Networking Works

Arnold Hall Building From Across The Street

One of the first things I did when I entered the program was I decided to be proactive and start networking with other students immediately. While in NYC at the graduate orientation, I met with other new students and exchanged email addresses. I've emailed these students to stay connected and it helps to form a sense of community. I also introduced myself to all the Professors who attended the orientation, met the Chair, Carol Wilder, and also met Tony Laing, the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Media Studies and Film. Tony will be one of your greatest allies while in the program. He is a gem. He is a key person who will help you with any questions or problems you may have. If it's not something he can take care of because it's out of his jurisdiction, he will route you to the right person. I have since corresponded with Tony many times and each time, he responds immediately and in a gracious and professional manner to all my email inquiries. For all new students in the program, particularly those that will be online-only students, I highly recommend attending graduating orientation to start feeling connected. You can also obtain your student ID while you're in town. Ask Tony for a student planner as well. And make sure you introduce yourself to Tony as well. He will remember you.

While in my courses, I built rapports with several key students, particularly those that had similar views -- they tended to be the students who responded to my posts. With these students, I've maintained contact via email, even after completion of the course. I also sought out the students who live in California and was surprised to find two in San Francisco. I set up a meeting with these two students who seemed excited to meet a fellow colleague. It was great meeting in person after having shared a couple of classes and knowing each other online. It's an interesting phenomenon to have that familiarity with a person from knowing them academically and meeting them for the first time. The familiarity is there but the newness of placing a face to the knowledge of "knowing" that person in an online class is a very different experience. It's like knowing someone for a long time but meeting them for the first time combined because the face and the personal contact is all new. I think those who do online dating experience the same phenomenon. It's very similar to the dating tactics of the older generation where prospects answered personal ads and communication and getting to know one other before meeting was via telephone. Today it's online personal ads via the Internet, emails and instant messaging to get to know the other person. The Web is really changing the way we communicate and meet other people.

So for me, building relationships with other students starts with a proactive mindset and action will get you there. Start networking with other students while in your classes. Find students in your class that live in or near your city or state so you can set up to meet in person. Network with students who live outside of your state as well and arrange to meet if you're ever in their state or country for that matter! I have several students I've made plans to meet during commencement next May. It will be a new experience coupled with the familiarity and history of being in class together. If anything, it is an exciting prospect! So go out and be proactive and seek out other grad students. They will be just as excited to network and connect with you.


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