Faculty’s free advice to freshmen

The start of the fall semester marks the beginning of collegiate life for many Northeastern students. Last week, we asked upperclassmen to dole out advice for new students on the Northeastern experience. This week, we’ve asked several faculty members to offer their insight. Here’s what they said:

Michael Pollastri, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the College of Science:

“President Aoun encouraged you to take full advantage of the millions of opportunities at Northeastern. Note, though, that many of these opportunities may not be immediately obvious to you, and often the best way to learn about them is to make personal connections with your professors. Besides opening your eyes to new opportunities to deepen your experience here, these personal connections will be important for you because these faculty members can help you in the future as informal (or formal) advisors, career mentors and, when you go on the co-op or job market, letter writers and references. Importantly, make these connections before you need them, and cultivate them over your time at Northeastern.”

Sheila Puffer, University Distinguished Professor and Cherry Family Senior Fellow of International Business in the College of Business Administration:

“Break away from people like yourself and expand your world view by meeting people who have come to Northeastern from all over the globe. Learn to eat with chopsticks from a Vietnamese, learn about soccer from a Brazilian, ask a Russian about ballet. Or learn to eat with chopsticks from a Russian, learn about soccer from a Vietnamese, or ask a Brazilian about ballet.”

Alan Mislove, assistant professor in the College of Computer and Information Science:

“Don’t hesitate to ask your professors and TAs for help, both in class and in office hours. I’ve found that the most successful students in my classes are not necessarily the smartest ones, but instead are the ones who I get to know because they ask questions. Doing so is also a great way to just chat with your professors, and it often leads to research opportunities and meaningful letters of recommendation. So drop by!”

Magy Seif El-Nasr, associate professor of game design and interactive media in the College of Arts, Media and Design and the College of Computer and Information Science:

“First, follow your passion. Figure out what you really love doing and major in it. Because if you do, you will find that work is something you love doing. As Gandhi said when he was asked if it was about time for him to take a vacation: ‘Why? […] I am always on vacation.’

“Second, remember that learning happens more often outside of the classroom than inside. Take the time to visit the labs and meet with professors. Volunteer to work with them and their students. Work on a project outside of the classroom that will help you advance your career.”

Jerry Hajjar, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering:

“Welcome to all incoming freshmen! Our university offers a wonderfully wide range of topics to study, including exciting and important emerging disciplines. I encourage all freshmen to seek synergies between courses both inside and outside their chosen field of study and embrace the opportunities of a liberal arts curriculum, grounded in cooperative education. Your electives taken outside of your major are the courses that may best distinguish you in your field. Be bold and inquisitive, and enjoy the journey.”

Denise Horn, assistant professor of international relations in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities:

“My advice: explore, explore, explore. Try something new as often as you can; take advantage of the opportunities afforded you by meeting new people and open yourself up to new ideas every day. Seek to challenge your worldview in a meaningful way. Oh, and get some sleep.”

Mary O’Connell, professor of law in the School of Law

“My advice would be don’t forget to enjoy what you are learning. Law lets us delve into questions that are both ridiculous and profound. Where else would you consider the “justifications” for depriving the Native Americans of their land – or ask whether you own your spleen? (The answer, by the way, is no.) Learning at this level involves a lot of work, but there is enormous fun and joy in the process if you just let it happen.”