Why I'm a Stanford Newcomer Guide

Lynn M. Hildemann, left. Photo by L.A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

In the Engineering classes I teach, most of my undergrad students are juniors and seniors.  Being a Stanford Newcomer Guide (SNG) gives me the wonderful chance to meet a small group of freshmen each year, and help them as they begin their Stanford adventure.  Every September, about a week before school starts, I find out who they are, where they are from, and what interests they have.  I get to read the letters each student has written to their SNG, introducing themselves to me – and I can’t wait to meet them!  

Starting at Stanford can feel overwhelming to many students, as it feels like there is so much to figure out.  One of my favorite things about being an SNG is that I get to spend 1-on-1 time with each student, 2-3 times per quarter!  I spend this time getting to know each of my frosh personally.  As a teacher, most of my interactions with students involve me talking, while they listen – I answer questions, explain concepts…   But as an SNG, I get to be the one who listens!  My goal is to learn what each of my students cares most about, what they are most worried about, and what their educational priorities are.  This enables me to work with each frosh in a personalized way – I can help them sort out which majors to consider, and which classes to choose, as well as suggest what on-campus resources might be valuable for them.  While some of my students end up choosing an engineering major, others do not, so I also enjoy broadening my Stanford perspectives by learning about non-engineering majors.

I always promise my freshmen advisees at our first meeting that, by the end of spring quarter, they’ll “have Stanford all figured out”!   And it is so rewarding to see my freshmen advisees grow exponentially more confident as their first year goes by.   They remain my advisees until they officially declare their major, so I have mixed feelings when this time arrives – I am sad to lose them as an official advisee, but happy that they have found the major that is “right” for them.

Lynn Hildemann

Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering