Getting Good Grades: Direction from BU Faculty and Academic Advisors

We asked several faculty and academic advisors at Binghamton University for their thoughts on how international students can be successful academically by communicating with their faculty and academic advisors. Here is what they had to say: 

It is important for international students, both graduate and undergraduate, to meet with faculty members for a variety of reasons. From a proactive standpoint, international students need to meet with faculty members, preferably during office hours, to ensure that they understand the material that is presented, be cognizant of the Professor’s expectations, and the grading scheme that is used.

Often, for international students, the grading mechanism used in the USA is different from that in their home country. Language could be a barrier to in-class conversations with a professor, as also a student’s cultural background. From a reactive perspective, the teaching assistant and the professor are both excellent resources to clear doubts and to help students understand their academic weaknesses. Faculty members are also often excellent mentors.

The diversity of BU’s faculty is another strength that is useful to our international student body. As a former international student, I think meeting with faculty members regularly, especially when there is a specific need, is critical to an international student’s academic success. International students need to remember that for faculty members and staff at BU, they are both ‘the customer and the product’.  

Hari Srihari,
Dean, Watson School of Engineering

Usually, when a student feels he does not understand material presented in class, it is no fault of the student's. Faculties in American universities expect students to tell a professor if the material is not coming through clearly, so that the professor can repeat the material or present it in a different way.

Professor Christopher Hanes,

It’s important for students to claim what they have paid tuition to receive: advice, guidance etc." Also, it’s so important to address your academic questions to your faculty or department advisor, or, if you are an undergraduate, to the advising office of your own program. DO NOT heed the well-intentioned but usually INCORRECT academic advising offered by anyone else.

Remember too that even personal issues can be discussed with your advising office (in confidence) if those issues are affecting your academic experience here. I remember a very hesitant, embarrassed undergraduate whose whole semester was hampered due to his suitemate's having a girlfriend in the room much of the time. He was afraid to say anything and yet it certainly had an impact on his grades that semester. Understanding rights and boundaries may be very confusing in a new culture where someone's inconsiderate behavior may be assumed to be "acceptable" in a new, more "liberal" environment!

Lorna Wells,
Director, Office of Watson School Advising, The Watson School

One of the roles of the academic advisors at Binghamton is to serve as an intermediary between students and faculty or staff. Advisors are resources who know the university, who understand the various viewpoints, and who can often identify areas of miscommunications early enough to prevent more serious problems. They are often your best starting point for any issue.

Brian Perry,
Advisor, School of Management Advising Office

The faculty and administration at the School of Management want our students to succeed, and we do everything in our power to lend our support to helping our students achieve this goal. We understand that there are many factors that may affect a student’s academic performance, and we actively encourage our students to seek early assistance and advice should the need arise.

Alesia Wheeler-Wade,
Assistant Director, Master’s Programs, School of Management


Last Updated: 8/28/14