Fostering Community Connections

Dr. Katherine Barclay is a human physiology and pathophysiology professor here at UNB. She shares her insight on how important it is to foster connections with those around you, both with student peers and professors, during your university experience. Below are some tidbits of advice she has for any students struggling on how to foster such connections!

There are so many benefits to connecting to people who are in the same field as you, beyond just getting notes from classmates when you miss class. You can all get together and work on assignments so you can get that academic support together, but then also have fun outside of the classroom together! I’m such a geek- I played Dungeons and Dragons with my friends- but people can do whatever activity they find fun.

One way to do this is join a club or society! I was President of the Physics society when I was here at UNB, and believe it or not, I was actually quite shy when started here as a student. But both my friend and I forced each other to join a society, and to this day, we’re so happy we did. By joining societies, I began to foster these connections, I can definitely say that because I grew in confidence, but also comfort.

When in class, feel free to stop by and ask a question or make a comment about class to your prof after.  Could be something as easy as “I found ‘so and so’ quite interesting”. I know when students come up and talk to me, I’m like “oh yeah, there’s that student that spoke to me and engaged in class. ” I think connecting with people, particularly professors, is such an important but undervalued skill. At the end of your studies, people are all going to need references and if you haven’t connected with anyone, then what kind of reference are you going to get?

For any students that are shy, I encourage them who are shy to come and sit in class within the first three rows. It’s usually there, you have the students who are most attentive and willing to engage. I mean, you sit in the back, you’re going to be with the kids who are taking a nap, on their phones, so please, don’t sit in the back. Sit in those first three rows and I guarantee, those are going to the people you connect with. And I know that even with that being said, it’s not always easy within the classroom stimulating conversation with those around you within the classroom. But then I encourage you to go to group tutoring sessions like PAL, chat to people in labs even, and you never know how far friendship can go.

It’s definitely important to remember that university is not all about notes and doing STEM. It’s about developing communication, listening skills, learning how to interact with others, working on a team- all basic survival skills for life.