West CampusFaculty and Other Advising Partners

The Academic Advising Center strengthens its network of advising support through partnerships with other campus offices and faculty. Whether you need guidance in a specific area or would like to get in touch with a representative of a particular department or program, Duke offers a wealth of resources to provide the advice you need.

Watch a short video on your advising network

Finding mentors

Sometimes, the search for opportunities can rely on clear application instructions and deadlines, but it often also involves personal connections. 

In addition to your college advisor, academic dean and the Academic Advising Center’s directors of academic engagement and peer advisors, there are many people in the Duke community who could be valuable additions to your advising network. Many of these are reviewed on our partners page. The information below will help you make connections with potential mentors.

“Networking” is a buzzword that gets used a lot in the professional world, but what is it? Networking is a process through which you thoughtfully create and sustain relationships in order to exchange information. In short, networking is talking to people.

The Career Center has some resources for beginning those conversations: networking guide and guide to informational interviewing.

Tips for correspondence

  • Be respectful of the other person’s time. Remember that working professionals do not keep the same schedule as college students.
  • Tell the person how you found her/him (DukeConnect, the history department website, advisor referral, etc.).
  • Be clear—but not demanding—about what you’re hoping to get out of the interaction (e.g., “I’d like to ask you some questions about your career path” not “Can you give me I job?”).
  • Be patient. It may take several days or even weeks to get a response.
  • Don’t expect to hear back from everyone you’ve contacted, but don’t give up, either. Move on to the next name on your list.
  • Be prepared. Read the faculty member’s bio and research profile, learn about the alum’s company, etc.
  • When meeting with a contact, make a list of questions you’d like to ask. This will decrease your chances of forgetting something important or sitting through an uncomfortable silence.
  • Be thankful. Send a thank you e-mail or, better yet, a handwritten note.
  • Keep in touch. If you follow someone’s advice and it goes well, let them know, even if it’s been a while since you met with them.
  • Read the Undergraduate Research Support Office’s tips for contacting mentors 

The Duke faculty is a tremendous resource that students don’t take advantage of often enough. Your professors are experts in the field you are studying in their classes, so use them to deepen your learning. And from a purely practical standpoint, you’ll probably need at least one of your professors to write you a recommendation at some point (for grad school, a study abroad program, etc.). It’s difficult for them to do that if they don’t know you.

Most professors have office hours; drop by for a chat. Or, if you can’t make the established office hours, invite the professor out for coffee or a FLUNCH. Some students feel nervous/intimidated/shy about talking to their professors outside of class, so here are a few conversation-starters to consider:

  • "I have a question about this topic we covered in class …"
  • "I’ve reworked a question I missed on our last quiz/test/problem set. Am I doing it correctly now?"
  • "I’m considering topic X for my final paper. Is that a manageable/appropriate topic?"
  • "I really enjoyed this topic we covered. Are there other articles I should read? Classes I should take?"
  • "I’ve really enjoyed this class. Do you teach others? What should I know about majoring in this subject?"

And here’s a conversation-killer: “What do I need to do to get an A in this class?” Don’t let this be your first one-on-one interaction with your professor.

Finding the right faculty

While developing close relationships with faculty is always a good idea, some opportunities at Duke—independent studies, DukeEngage independent projects, some research grants, Program II applications—require you to have a faculty mentor. So how do you find that person?

Ask for a referral. Talk to your current professors and your advisors. Do they know someone who is doing work in your area of interest? When reaching out to someone you don’t know, dropping the name of a mutual acquaintance can help catch the attention of your target. For example, “I took Class X with Professor Smith, and she recommended I contact you because I’m interested in Y.”

Try cold-calling (or cold-emailing). With some research, you can find someone whose interests match your own and “cold-call” her/him without anyone else to introduce you. Your chances of getting no response increase with this method, so try to find a few people to contact. A few suggestions on starting your search:

A few departments have pages that are especially helpful if you’re seeking a research opportunity:

DukeConnect is a database students can use to reach out to Duke alumni living all over the world. Get advice on career paths, major selection, graduate/professional school, what it’s like to live in different places and more.

Various events throughout the academic year bring special alumni guests back to campus. Many of these gatherings—including the AAC's DukeJourneys dinners—provide opportunities for one-on-one interaction and lasting connections. Your weekly AAC Student News will inform you about upcoming DukeJourneys dinners, and you can watch for other events of interest on the Duke calendar and social media.