Newness Advice from New Faculty

Photo by Matt Perko

Alondra Sierra
Features Editor


Navigating new spaces and beginnings, much like the start of fall quarter, can be a daunting exploration or a thrilling opportunity for both new and returning faces to UCSB’s community. The novelty of fall quarter isn’t just a burden for students to bear, however, as our campus welcomes over 60 faculty members across all academic departments. The Bottom Line reached out to some of UCSB’s new faculty to share some advice to students encountering the newness of fall quarter.

“I think what I would say is that college is an amazing time for experimenting with ways to engage with the world. I did my share of wasting time in undergrad (e.g., sleeping till 4pm), but some of my fondest memories are when I wandered into communities of people trying to make something happen. There are so many opportunities on a campus like this one to be engaged whether it’s joining an activist group, volunteering for a non-profit, canvassing for a politician, or just talking with your friends about what’s going on in the world.

As someone who studies how young people engage in politics, I know there are many sensible reasons students steer clear of anything ‘political.’ But in college you get to try out different ways of engaging in public life … and different ideas … you can try things out and decide never to do them again.

I think my advice is to use some of this precious quarter to step out of your own life and into public life. It will be weird, perhaps disheartening, maybe frustrating … but you might just find something you are truly passionate about.”

Professor Dan Lane
Department of Communication


“As a college freshman, I remember being afraid to ask questions. I was nervous about looking stupid, reluctant to admit I didn’t know what I assumed were basic things, and scared of talking to people who seemed to have such a clear sense of their place in the world. The first years of university life are nerve-wracking, but it is also the time when endless possibilities of learning and unlearning lay before you. Don’t be afraid to take courses you know nothing about, to risk asking the question you think is obvious (in all likelihood, many people in the room will be grateful to you for it!), to be vulnerable with those around you, and to push yourself to be uncomfortable. Embracing uncertainty can be unsettling, but the most interesting people I know are constantly unsettled.

My second piece of advice is this: Don’t let the classroom discipline how you learn … You will learn just as much — if not more — about the world from your fellow students, from the ocean and the earth, from being embedded in social movements, going to protests, community gardens, union meetings, and from learning how to be in the world with others.”

Professor Charmaine Chua
Department of Global Studies 


“The Grateful Dead have a line in the song ‘Uncle John’s Band’ that says, ‘Well the first days are the hardest days.’ I often have that line in my head when I begin something new. Remember that almost everything new is hard at first, and with time it gets easier. After my own recent move to the SB area, I was reading a blog about transitioning to new places, and the author recommended becoming a ‘regular’ somewhere. So, I would advise students to become ‘regulars’ — to stay engaged in their classes and to participate in on- and off-campus activities. And remember to get help along the way if you need it. There are a lot of resources at UCSB and in the community to help students who are struggling; please reach out to someone if you need help.”

Professor Elizabeth Ackert
Department of Geography


“The beginning of a new school year is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. At this time of the school year, we often subject ourselves to high expectations. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Take a break from thinking about everything you want to accomplish and reflect on how far you’ve already come. Give yourself some credit, and remind yourself what a strong and capable person you are.”

Professor Liz Carlisle
Department of Environmental Studies 


“One thing I wished I had done more when I was in undergrad and one thing that I always advise students to do is go to office hours! I was a first-generation college student and was intimidated by many professors and confused by a lot things when I was new to campus. But now as a professor I know that we (professors) really do care about students and want to know about what’s going on in their lives. I didn’t really get that, and wish that I had.”

Professor Jean Beaman
Department of Sociology 


“Don’t get lost and remember who you are. Keep focus on your intentions to further your education.”

Professor Sarah Brady
Department of Art


“One piece of advice that I’ve found helpful, especially as I adapt to new situations, is to avoid the temptation to multitasking. In addition to the pervasive distractions of modern life, when moving to a new environment or starting a big new project, we are usually confronted with a million things that vie for our attention and create a sense of restlessness and anxiety. It is easy to get carried away by these emotions and to start trying to juggle, devoting some degree of attention to each of those things at the same time, but that strategy tends to create more anxiety and prevents us from really enjoying whatever is our main occupation at each moment, as we are distracted by the other things that we also need to get to. I think it is better both for our mind and for our effectiveness, to stop for a moment to define priorities and then try to devote our full attention to one thing at a time, moving to the next one (with full attention, again) when the appointed time comes… ”

Professor Patricio A. Fernandez
Department of Philosophy 


“I’m joining UCSB after years of teaching in University of Delhi, India. Everything feels very ‘new’ and different here — from the city, university, weather, university culture, just about everything. One can confront newness with either anxiety or excitement. My advice to all those coming to UCSB for the first time is that to feel fear and anxiety is natural; as is to feel the tingle of excitement at the wonderful opportunities, resources and relationships this place offers. Let the spirit of excitement and exploration be your lodestar. The rest will fall in place.”

Professor Anshu Malhotra
Department of Global Studies