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Open Thread Wednesday: Tips for a New Campus

7976036483_96c0559ddb_k For most of us, the start of the semester is either underway or looming just around the corner. For those who, like me, find themselves on a new campus this fall, this new beginning is even more dramatic. There are many posts from the archives with ProfHackers offering advice to newcomers on campus: Brian wrote an open letter to new graduate students; Billie offered advice to first-time professors; Jeffrey addressed new departments chairs; and Nels offered tips for the newly-tenured. Taking on a familiar role at a new campus can feel like starting from scratch, but with the benefit and burden of experience. A great amount of experience is transferable, although previous knowledge can also be misleading as the expectations and routines of one university can feel radically different. And of course, there’s change at every level of routine, from forms and paperwork to just finding a building or office. Here’s my checklist for getting started somewhere new:

  • Build a mental map. If you’re at a big university, it’s worth spending as much time as possible before classes start getting hopelessly lost–and not relying on technology to find your way. Learning the landmarks and shortcuts will come in handy when you’re rushing cross-campus for a meeting later.

  • Get all the passwords. Most of us will have some control over an office  computer, but there’s lots of other technology we need to access to get our classes going. Find out if there are passwords or codes for buildings, classrooms, labs, and the instructor’s computers in any rooms you’ll be in. If possible, go try them out before the first week of classes just in case.

  • Create a campus information archive. We’re always bombarded with information our first few weeks something new, often when we’re too busy to process it–it’s great to hear about tenure or the library resources, but we’re often more concerned with ID cards and finding our office. I keep files with every big topic and store it for when I’ve figured out the day to day routine.

  • Learn your available technology resources. http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Open-Letter-to–2010–11s-Ne/24255/Many of us ProfHacker types are used to going outside the lines with our course sites, social media, digital projects, and in-class technology. Every campus has different resources and policies: learn as much as you can before you find out that a project adapted for an old syllabus won’t work the same here.

  • Create your own directory. Consider using a Google Doc or another easily accessed notes tool for keeping track of the faculty, administration, and staff you’ve met, and under what circumstances. When you have a question later, it’s easier to ask for help from someone you know than search through the larger campus directory for guidance.

Got any survival tips for a first semester on a new campus? Share your advice in the comments! [CC BY 2.0 Photo by Flickr User Ian Munroe]

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