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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

UDRs advise students and advocate within departments

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: Features

Since the fall of 1998, Brandeis’ Undergraduate Departmental Representatives have served as intermediaries between undergraduate students and the department faculty members. They act as the voices of the students to the Undergraduate Advising Heads, relaying news back and forth between the two groups. Bright, enthusiastic and well versed in their respective majors, these juniors and seniors not only act as liaisons, but are also catalysts for change within their departments.

One of the reasons Sandra Luo ’15 became a UDR was to do just that. “I applied to become a UDR because I really loved my department and … I wanted to be able to impact change within [it] and have a say in future courses.” This will be Luo’s second and final year as Brandeis’ business department’s UDR.

Since she became a UDR, Luo has made very strong connections with the faculty and staff in the business department and believes that building these connections will be very beneficial to her after graduation. “Knowing the right people will take you far, and a lot of the professors have had great experiences in what you might want to do in the future,” she said. Luo is also a member of the Undergraduate Departmental Representatives Council. The council is made up of six senior UDRs, each representing a department or interdepartmental program from all four schools of the College of Arts and Sciences. They meet on a monthly basis in order to discuss various UDR activates, as well as to advise the dean’s office on policy changes, new initiatives and other topics the UDR program is involved in.

The difficulty in becoming involved with a department as large as the psychology department was one of the reasons why Sarah Yun ’16 decided to become a UDR this year. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved with the school and get closer to the psychology department,” said Yun. Although she is not completely familiar with the position just yet, she is looking forward to making the lives of other students easier by providing them with advice and assistance in regards to their major.

Yun described her first satisfying experience as a UDR at the Academic Fair earlier this year when she got the opportunity to speak with first-years about the psychology department. “[It] helped me realize, ‘Hey! I actually do know a fair amount about this major,’ [and] made me think about what I really like and dislike about the department,” Yun said. As of now, she plans to continue as the psychology department UDR next year.

Some students, especially if they are new to the Brandeis community and are not fully confident in what they want to major in, may be hesitant or too intimidated to approach a UDR. However, both Luo and Yun stressed the fact that Undergraduate Departmental Representatives are undergraduate students too, and therefore, there is no need to be hesitant about contacting them. The UDRs have taken a multitude of classes in their departments and can confidently speak to the difficulty of the classes, and what the professors are like, in addition to providing students with other valuable information. They also help students manage their schedules by telling them which classes take up the most time and what their overall course load will look like depending on what classes they are interested in taking.

UDRs are willing and eager to help both underclassmen and their own peers. Luo said, “We’re here as a support system for when you have questions about classes and your future and all of the other things you have on your mind.”