May I give you some feedback?


Have you seen the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix? If you haven't, I won't ruin it for you but there was a moment in the film that created a strange connection for me in my role as academic advisor.

One of the people responsible for creating the infamous 'like' button that we associate with social media platforms speaks about their intent to “spread love and positivity in the world.” He notes they had no idea it would be one of contributors to how people measure their self-worth.

This likely resonated with me because while we are a technical university, we are also committed to developing engineers that have a “comprehensive view of how technology is shaping the environment we live in.”

From this perspective and the example of how well-intended technology can have unintended consequences, I would like to highlight my experience working with a shared mailbox. In our department (and others around the university), academic advisors for each program use a shared mailbox to ensure that students don't experience a disruption in service if academic advisors are away or change; it becomes quite easy for an academic advisor to jump in, see what has happened and respond accordingly.

What’s the other side of this? Often, because students are writing to a generic mailbox, they write to their academic advisor in an impersonal way. “Dear academic advisor” or “Dear sir or madam” or “Hey, can you tell me…” are often ways students begin their emails to their academic advisors. Interestingly, in cases where it takes 3-4 emails to resolve an issue, some students will also still refer to me as “dear sir or madam” or “dear academic advisor” even after their initial response and discover who is answering their questions.

I try to think about it from the student perspective. Maybe some students have learned that they always need to communicate formally in any interaction with the university and to keep professional distance. Maybe some students are not interested in finding out who is going to respond to their message as long as they get a response. There are probably other reasons - if you’re a student, let me know.

In any case, for those of you who are interested, I'd like to give you some feedback. During these times when we have so little actual human interaction, it would really make a difference if you looked up the name of your academic advisor(s). We’re the people who will follow you throughout your journey as a student and do our best to help you along the way. It may seem like an unimportant extra effort to make, but learning our names is a small step that can make a big difference on a human-to-human level.

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