Using Faculty Expertise to Your Advantage

By Rachel Surminsky


The University of Georgia has innumerable resources for its students but its most prominent is a strong and dedicated faculty. Faculty members make a student’s college experience entirely more worthwhile but far too many students don’t access this incredible resource. As college students, it’s engrained in our brains that during college it is extremely important to build skill-sets that will help when finding a job post-graduation. Working with professors to conduct academic or practical research is an amazing way to learn new skills, build a resume, and create relationships for job recommendations.

Doing research with the political science department at the UGA has been my most educationally influential experience. For over a year, I’ve worked on coding projects, helped co-author several projects, and done my own independent research studies. Participating in this experience has completely altered my post-graduate pursuits. Discovering my passion for research and interest in politics through tangible experiential learning has given me the confidence, skills, and knowledge vital to post-graduate success.

At freshman year orientation, students are advised to meet our professors and get involved with their research – yet very few undergraduates pursue this opportunity. Finding a professor to do research with is incredibly easy if you know where to look. The Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities has several different programs that help students understand the research process and explore potential areas of study. Choosing a FYOS (First-Year Odyssey) wisely can also be a great place to look. Many of UGA’s most esteemed professors teach FYOS courses specifically for their small class sizes so they can interact with and build stronger relationships with students. International Affairs or Political Science special topics classes are usually unique, hands-on based experiences where professors teach on more detailed topic areas – sometimes specifically involving research. Finally, and most importantly, is going to a professor’s office hours. Rarely do students utilize this crucial time to introduce themselves and speak with their instructors on anything and everything. This kind of initiative alone can help to build a report with faculty. Each faculty member has a profile at spia.uga.edu with his or her research interests and current projects. Perusing through your professors profile and then visiting them at their office hours is a great way to start a conversation.

Whether you want to pursue research as a career or not, it’s a great way to learn new things that complement a degree from SPIA. Research can help improve writing skills, teach innovative thinking, and demonstrate prowess in problem solving as well as dedication to long-term projects. It can provide a great answer for an interview or helps build a professor’s recommendation for a future job. More specifically, if applying to PhD or some graduate schools, having research experience is vital to being considered.

Whatever your reason, research experiences – especially at the University of Georgia – are incredibly worthwhile and can change your entire collegiate career.