Relationships with Faculty

By: Allyson Mateja – 2nd Year – Biostatistics & Bioinformatics 

One of the best parts about Rollins is the accessibility of all of the faculty members and how easy it is to get to know all of them.  Every faculty member I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in at Rollins has always been willing to listen, give advice, and assist with anything I need.  Professors have helped suggest coursework, REAL positions, and practicum and thesis opportunities. I was lucky enough to find my practicum at the Georgia Aquarium through the former chair of the biostatistics department, Dr. Lance Waller.  He happened to mention at our department practicum meeting that he had some connections there, and they would likely need student help on projects. I reached out to him, and had my practicum secured by March of last year. I’ve also made connections with other biostatistics faculty through reaching out to them after having taken their class. I’ve gotten thesis help and just general life advice from them.

Here are some of my tips to develop relationships with faculty that will help you to make the most of your two years at Rollins:

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Many professors always need help on their research, so if you are interested in their study area, send them a professional email.  Be sure to show that you’ve done your research on their projects, and don’t send the same email to more than one professor. Even if they’re not in need to student help at the time, they could pass your name along to one of their colleagues.  Many students who don’t have REAL end up finding jobs this way, and they can be a great source of advice and mentorship. In addition, most departments assign faculty advisors when you first matriculate. Be sure to ask your advisors any questions you may have, especially about what classes you should take.  They are experts in the field and know what is necessary to succeed. However, don’t limit yourself by only talking to this one faculty member. If you meet another professor, through class or through research, don’t hesitate to reach out to them as well.
  2. Attend talks, especially those put on by faculty members in your department.  You’ll impress professors just by attending if it was not required, and you’ll have a great starting point for a discussion with them.  In addition, you’ll learn a bit more about their area of research that will help you if you do end up working there in the future.
  3. Take a class in a research area of interest.  If you know you want to work in a certain area or with a certain professor, take their class.  You’ll have the background necessary to work with them, and you’ll already have a relationship with them.  In addition, if you do well in the class, you’ll stand out. Professors will reach out to students that performed well to TA for them or to work for them, whether for REAL or for thesis work.  Don’t underestimate the power of simply showing up and working hard.

The world of public health is small, so it’s important to make lasting connections with faculty during our two years here, because they could be our colleagues someday. A connection you make at Rollins could lead to a full-time position in the future.  If you’re willing to put yourself out there, it’s very easy to develop wonderful relationships with faculty, all of whom are great resources for your field. Taking on leadership in the department, whether being an RSGA department representative or just volunteering to send out the department newsletters, helps you stand out as well, as professors will already know your name.  Overall, the relationships I’ve made with faculty at Rollins over the past year have made my experience here even better. I know that I can ask almost any member of our department for help, and they will be willing to answer my questions. Simply through reaching out and making an effort to connect with them, faculty can be some of the best and most important resources during your time here at Rollins.