Advice from our Faculty to Undergraduate Students


Professor Merike Blofield

Read the syllabus, do the readings, come talk to the professor (he or she does care!). Hard as it may be, I recommend turning your computer and cell phone off during class and focusing, and don’t be afraid to ask and answer questions."


Professor Joseph Uscinski

Success as a POL undergraduate comes down to four simple things: reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. There is no magic here. My goal is to get you doing these four things…over and over again. With more practice, the easier each gets. My best advice is the following: 

Read all assigned readings when they are assigned. Do not wait until the exam to read. Make reading a regular part of your day. Write your assignments long before they are due (and not the day of). Then proofread, edit, and revise. This is college, so spelling and grammar count. The writing center can always help. Raise your hand in class. Share your ideas with your professors and classmates. Don’t be shy, take part in the discussion. Finally, think. Question your assumptions. Be open to new ideas. Admit that you could be wrong.


Professor Louise Davidson-Schmich

What you get out of your UM experience depends on what you put into it. There are lots of resources and opportunities here for you, but no one will force you to take advantage of any of them, so it’s up to you to be a self-starter. Go to class – even if it’s not required or early in the morning. Come to class prepared – having done the reading or other assigned material. Once you’re in the classroom pay attention to what’s going on – don’t text or doze off. Do all the assignments; many students’ grades suffer because they don’t complete all the work for a given course. Get to know your professors, especially your advisor, outside of the classroom; they can provide you with good letters of recommendation if they actually know you and you might find them a source of useful information and advice. If you run into trouble don’t pretend your problems will just go away; take active steps to solve them. UM has lots of resources to help you out: tutoring, counseling, a writing center, librarians to help with research, etc. Professors are much more understanding if you come to them with issues in advance of deadlines than after you’ve received a poor grade.

Your peers are also a great resource; get to know other majors, form study groups, and talk about political ideas that interest you. Join a campus club or organization where you can interact with students who have similar interests. The University of Miami brings a range of top-notch speakers to campus each semester – Presidents, Presidential candidates, other politicians, foreign dignitaries, activists, volunteers, business people, celebrities, and others with expertise to share. Even if you don’t get extra-credit for doing so, check out some of these events; you might be inspired and identify possibilities for your own future. Finally, don’t worry making exact plans for the rest of your life. Your generation will probably have to work until you are at least 70, so you have 50 years of work ahead of you, likely in many different jobs. If you aren’t 100% sure what you want to do after graduation (or even if you are) you’ll have plenty of time after college to figure this out. While you’re here, concentrate on the present and taking advantage of as many opportunities as you can!