Silly to miss syllabus

Professor Casey LaFrance Political Science Department

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If this is your first semester, welcome to Western! If you are a returning student, welcome back!   While it is true that many of us like to ease into the semester with an overview of the syllabus and a round robin meet-and-greet, I encourage you to be present on syllabus day and the first week of class for a couple of reasons.

First off, the syllabus is the single most important document students encounter in a college course.It is much more than a schedule of assignments or calendar of topics. It is a contract between pupil and instructor, full of important information, mutual commitments and expectations. Often, students ask questions midway through a semester that are answered in the syllabus they are provided on the first day. Students can save themselves a heck of a lot of confusion by carefully reading the syllabus a couple of times.  

In addition to the mutual expectations that the syllabus explains, the syllabus also contains crucial information regarding resources on campus designed to help you succeed. For instance, if you have a disability, there is a wonderful center on campus that can help you and your professor discuss necessary accommodations to ensure that you have an enjoyable learning experience.  Or, if you are just having trouble putting a paper together and need a second set of eyes, the skilled and friendly folks at the writing center are willing and able to work with you to develop your writing style, structure your arguments and, most importantly, finish your assignments.  Also, we sometimes make mistakes that are only brought to our attention when a student who has read the syllabus catches them.  

In addition to becoming familiar with the syllabus, it might be wise to become familiar with your classmates. Whether you share a classroom with 5 or 200 classmates, it is in your interest to get to know as many of them as possible. They can share notes if you have to miss class, compare review strategies for exams and make the class less isolating. Sometimes, you might even make a lifelong friend because you extended your hand and introduced yourself.  

While you’re at it, get to know your professors. We are excited to know about you and to assist you in learning and applying what you have learned. We hold office hours so that you can ask questions, voice concerns or just let us know about you.

Finally, showing up the first week sets a pattern for the next week and the week after. It takes 21 days, some argue, to develop a habit.  Why not begin cultivating the habit of regular attendance early?

Have a wonderful first week, Western. 


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