Thoughts from a Peer Advisor: “Being a Self-Advocate: Communication is the Key to Success”

Being A Self-Advocate: Communication is the Key to Success

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, the verb advocate means to “publicly recommend or support.” Advocacy, the noun conjugation of advocate, is defined as “public support for or recommendation for a particular cause or policy.” However, self-advocate and self-advocacy are not officially defined in any dictionary that I could find, and yet they are incredibly important – shall I say, essential – to everyday life. But what do they mean?

Self-advocacy is defined by wrightslaw.com as the following:

“Self-advocacy is learning how to speak up for yourself, making your own decisions about your own life, learning how to get information so that you can understand things that are of interest to you, finding out who will support you in your journey, knowing your right and responsibilities, problem solving, listening and learning, reaching out to others when you need help and friendship, and learning about self-determination.”

Now, that is a lot of information, and a lot of words, for what can be described in a much more concise, basic way: take the regular old word advocacy, and reflect it back onto yourself. So, essentially, self-advocacy could simply be defined as “public support for or recommendation for…” yep, you guessed it, “…yourself.”

To be a self-advocate, it is important to be able to represent yourself and speak up for yourself in the most effective way not only to your network of peers and professors, but also to your wider-ranging and more general community. Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to speak up for yourself or ask strangers, or even peers and professors, for help, but that can be imperative in an educational setting. Too often, bright and engaged students (read: all Wesleyan students) fall through the cracks because they simply are uncomfortable asking for guidance and support.

Now, it is easy to say “just ask,” but it is much harder to actually do it. If and when you face discomfort, or hesitate when preparing to ask for something, whether it be an explanation for a grade, an extension on an assignment, or simply a time to meet, just remember this: all of the people you meet at Wesleyan truly want you to succeed. They are your support network, your safety net. They want you to be a self-advocate, simply so that they can accommodate and adjust to your wants and needs to further increase your likelihood of success. My advice? If you feel anticipation before saying something, sending an email, or even knocking on a door at office hours, take a deep breath, count to three, and try it. All you need is a split second of courage and the worst part, the anticipation part, will be over. Try it over and over again until it becomes more comfortable. And believe me, it will.

Another key part of being a self-advocate is communication. It can be incredibly difficult to articulate what you want to say in an in-person conversation, simply because you must listen, absorb, and process what the other person is saying in a very short amount of time. So, do not be afraid to take your time! Tell the other person you need a moment to think, or simply reflect back to them what they said to you to make sure you have heard it correctly. In-person conversation is an art, and the only way to develop your skills is to use them. Online conversation, however, is a totally different ballgame.

When corresponding online, or over the phone, remember that you are not there to represent yourself. Your facial expression and body language cannot help you (or hurt you!), so you must put it all into the email, text, or phone call. The other person cannot see you, but this can be a good thing. You can have notes written down, or typed up, so that you make sure you get to every point you want to make, or question you want to ask. Just remember that when sending an email, especially to a professor, always be as formal and respectful as possible; professors get hundreds of emails every day and will not be eager to respond to a “yo, sup?” Address the recipient by the most formal title they have, whether it be professor, Dr., Mr., Mrs., or Ms., and sign it with a thank you and your full name and class year. And, when in doubt, use your self-advocacy and communication skills: ask someone more experienced than you for help! Teamwork makes the dream work, and crafting the perfect email can definitely be a team activity.

Self-advocacy is all-encompassing; it is fluid, and changes depending on who is exhibiting it. One person’s strengths may be another person’s weaknesses; remember that you can take advantage the resources and people around you simply by asking. Try not to get discouraged; your first year at a new place can be incredibly difficult, but, like I said before, remember that everyone at Wesleyan wants you to succeed. As long as you are your best self, you will thrive. Go Wes!
Thanks for reading!

Haley Brumberger, 2020, Academic Peer Advisor

The Advising Guidelines!

If you haven’t checked out the Advising Guidelines, do so ASAP.  Important advice about how to think about your planning your course of study and specific advice about a range of topics.  It includes pearls of wisdom from your class dean–really! ;)–and sage advice from professors and the academic peer advisors.  Selected topics will be featured over the next couple of weeks, and reading now (or again) will reinforce all the good info you know.

Thinking of Majoring In CSS, COL or CEAS?

With over 1000 courses in 45 majors, 14 minors, 12 certificates, and a unique open curriculum choosing classes during pre-registration may seem like a stressful and daunting task. Many students come into Wesleyan without any idea of what they want to study – and that’s totally fine! For most students, major declaration does not happen until the second semester of sophomore year. However, Wesleyan has three majors that require declaration during the spring semester of freshman year. These programs are the College of Social Studies, the College of Letters, and the College of East Asian Studies. While we like to advise students to explore a wide range of classes in their first year of college and hone their interests, if you are thinking about one of these programs, it may affect the decisions that you make during pre-registration. This blog post will provide a description of each of these programs and some suggestions for those who are thinking about choosing one of these majors.

College of Social Studies. The College of Social Studies is a rigorous, multidisciplinary major focusing on History, Government, Political and Social Theory, and Economics. CSS is reading and writing intensive, encouraging intellectual independence with weekly essays, small group tutorials, and a vibrant intellectual environment.

College of Letters. The College of Letters is a interdisciplinary major for the study of European literature, history, and philosophy, from antiquity to the present. During these three years, students participate as a cohort in a series of colloquia in which they read and discuss works together (in English), learn to think critically about texts in relation to their contexts and influences—both European and non-European—and in relation to the disciplines that shape and are shaped by those texts. Majors also become proficient in a foreign language and study abroad in order to deepen their knowledge of another culture.

College of East Asian Studies. The College of East Asian Studies challenges students to understand China, Japan, and Korea through the rigors of language study and the analytical tools of various academic disciplines. This process demands both broad exposure to different subjects and a focused perspective on a particular feature of the East Asian landscape.

For those considering one of these three majors, here are some helpful tips as you select your classes and enter your first semester of college:

Deadlines. CSS, COL, and CEAS require major declaration in the spring of your freshman year. The deadline for CSS and COL is generally in March, and CEAS is in April. The application forms and the exact dates can be found on the department page of each major. If you are thinking about one of these majors, I would recommend talking to people who are in one of these majors or reaching out to any of the faculty members in the major as soon as possible.

Admission Requirements. All CSS majors must complete the economics prerequisite either by taking ECON101 and achieving a grade of CR or a letter grade of at least C- or by taking ECON110 and achieving a grade of CR or a letter grade of at least C-. Some students who have not completed the economics prerequisite are admitted each year on the condition that they must complete the prerequisite in the fall term of the sophomore year. Even if you are possibly thinking about majoring in CSS, I would consider enrolling in an economics course in the first or second semester of your freshmen year.

Language Requirements. COL and CEAS both have language requirements. COL majors must become proficient in a foreign language and study abroad in a country where the selected foreign language is spoken. CEAS majors are expected to take at least four semesters of East Asian language courses and reach a minimum of advanced-level (third-year) competency in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Majors who are native speakers of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean are expected to study another East Asian language. Those who have already studied a foreign language relevant to one of these majors do not necessarily have to enroll in a foreign language in the first semester. However, for those who need to start at a beginning level, it is highly recommended that you enroll in a language course as early as possible.

General Education Expectations. Only CSS requires completion of Stage II general education requirements (three course credits in HA, SBS, and NSM, all from different departments or programs). However, CSS majors have until the end of junior year to complete Stage I general education requirements (two course credits in each area, all from different departments or programs). While COL and CEAS do not have general education requirements, it is highly recommended that ALL students complete Stage II general education requirements. A student who does not meet these expectations by the time of graduation will not be eligible for University honors, Phi Beta Kappa, honors in general scholarship, or for honors in certain departments and may not declare more than a combined total of two majors, certificates, and minors.

If you have any further questions about any of these three programs, we encourage you to check each college’s website in WesMaps and on Wesvising, and/or reach out to a peer advisor or to a faculty member in the specific department.

Wesvising, a departmental advising tool for the curricular exploration

Use this time to begin exploring the Wesleyan curriculum through WesMaps, Wesleyan’s online curriculum, and Wesvising, as a course selection advising tool.  It is a site developed by faculty members in the different departments, programs, and colleges to inform incoming students about their disciplines and the courses they offer.  Most departments have videos and all departments have helpful FAQs to guide you as you develop your plan of study.

Like most students, you will end up with way too many courses on your planning list, but keep them in mind in case your plans change or you want to take them another semester.

The key word is EXPLORE, as Professor Szegedy-Maszak advises, so take advantage of this time and Wesvising to do so!

Professor’s Advice: EXPLORE the Wes Curriculum!

EXPLORE Your Interests and the Wesleyan Curriculum!

Professor Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Professor of Classical Studies, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, urges first-year students to extend themselves beyond the typical high school subjects:

Now that you are starting to think about the courses you would like to take, you should remember a couple of things. This will be your first semester at Wesleyan, and so if you know that you will want to take advanced courses in some field, this would be a good time to take at least one of the introductory-level classes that are prerequisites for further study. They are identified for you in WesMaps. As a corollary to that first piece of advice, you should also take advantage of Wesleyan’s open curriculum to explore subjects that you’re not already familiar with. We have an extraordinarily rich offering of courses across the disciplines.

You should also keep in mind the General Education Expectations, that encourage you to take courses in all three of our academic “divisions” – Humanities and Arts (HA), Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS), and Natural Sciences and Math (NSM). Most course listings in WesMaps have a divisional identification. Go outside your comfort zone, take a chance, and – like many students before you – you may find that you are captivated by a field of study that is new to you. An excellent way to do the exploration is by enrolling in one of our First Year Seminars. They are specifically designed for new students and emphasize writing and class discussion and careful analysis. These are skills that you will use not only throughout your time at the University, but also after you graduate. Finally, allow yourself some flexibility, and leave some options open. Once you have made your selections, they are not final until you have met with your faculty advisor, shortly after you arrive on campus. At that point you might decide to revise your plan, and that’s fine. Think of this process as your introduction to a first-rate liberal arts curriculum, which necessarily combines structure and experimentation.  Enjoy!

 

Advising Resources & Advice from the Peer Advisors

Advising Guidelines

With over 1000 classes offered in 45 majors, 17 minors, and 12 certificates, students have the opportunity to explore a wide range of fields and topics their first year. While choosing the right classes may seem like a daunting task, faculty advisors and peer advisors will guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your schedule is balanced and appropriate. For more extensive information on advising guidelines, please visit the New Student Orientation website (http://www.wesleyan.edu/orientation/advising_guidelines.html).

Over the summer, new students will have the opportunity to rank seven first-year seminars and seven introductory courses. All of the course listings can be found on WesMaps (https://iasext.wesleyan.edu/regprod/!wesmaps_page.html). For questions about specific majors or departments, WesVising (http://www.wesleyan.edu/wesvising/) is a great resource with videos and FAQs from every department. Academic Peer Advisors are available to answer questions during the summer. If you have any questions about scheduling, course planning, or major requirements, you can reach a peer advisor at peeradvisors@wesleyan.edu. Class deans are also available throughout the summer to answer questions. Louise Brown is the Dean for the Class of 2021 and you can reach her at lsbrown@wesleyan.edu.

During orientation, all new students are assigned a faculty advisor. Your faculty advisor is responsible for approving your course schedule each semester. When you meet with your faculty advisor, plan to discuss not only your fall semester course plan, but also your educational goals, hopes and concerns at Wesleyan and beyond. During this meeting, you will have the opportunity to make changes (or not) to your schedule during the Adjustment period and Drop/Add. Prior to meeting with their faculty advisor, all new students will also have the opportunity to meet with an Academic Peer Advisor who will offer advice on course registration in preparation for meeting with faculty advisors.

It is never to early to begin thinking about your course schedule. With so many classes to take, the hard part will be narrowing down the courses so that you can create a well-balanced schedule that allows you to explore and hone your intellectual interests. If you have any questions about any step of the pre-registration or advising process, please reach out to an Academic Peer Advisor at peeradvisors@wesleyan.edu.

Stephen Chen ’18

Course Pre-registration — July 10!

On July 10 at 9 a.m., course pre-registration for the Fall semester will open!  Woo hoo!

There will be a pre-reg link in the alert box of your Wesportal.  The upper frame will open in WesMaps, the online curriculum, and the bottom frame will be where you will rank a list of seven first-year seminars and seven intro/other courses.

Students enrolled in a Learning and Living seminar already have their FYS and will see it in their course schedule.  They will need to rank only their intro/other courses.

Posts that follow on the class blog, thoughout July, will include lots of tips and advice about course registration, balancing a schedule, advising guides, and advising tools.  Many of these aids are listed in the Academic Resource bucket of the Orientation Checklist.  For additional information and advice, you can contact an academic peer advisor or Dean Brown or another class dean, each of whom will assist you or connect you with a faculty member.  There are plenty of resources for you as you build your course plan for the fall semester.  Take advantage of them!

 

Faculty and Student Advising Handbook

June 2017

As you plan for July course registration and your arrival in the Fall, it is important to review the Faculty and Student Advising Handbook. The Handbook is designed to help you achieve your educational goals by providing advice on how to get the most out of your relationship with your faculty advisor as you build your program of study over the course of your Wesleyan career. The Handbook also provides information about academic departments and programs, graduation requirements, each year’s journey through Wes, study abroad, the major declaration process, academic support services for students, and summary procedures of the Honor Board and the Student Judicial Board.  The Common Advising Questions section is also very informative.