One on One Student Interactions Methods and Reminders

How we respond to inquiries reflects on the UWM Panther community. This guide, compiled and edited through the Dean of Students Office, contains some easy methods and quick reminders of how to work with and respond to students when they come to us with questions or concerns. If you have questions not addressed in this document, do not hesitate ask for assistance directly.

Believe in our students (Empathy, Respond with care and empathy)

  • Students are under more systemic stress (e.g., social, emotional and financial) than ever, and they need more patience, kindness, and support.
  • Listen actively, to understand as much as possible.
    • Personalize your response. A short restatement of the questions/issues involved can significantly help communication.
  • Electronic communication can feel impersonal.
    • Even though a communication is digital, you can still seek to better understand the student’s concerns and tell them you want to help.
  • Our students have an amazing capacity to navigate challenging circumstances successfully while balancing various stressors in and out of the classroom.
  • Observe and meet the student “where” they are coming from.
    • You are probably not the first person this student has tried to reach out to. It is safe to assume this student has been bounced around. YOU CAN STOP THIS!
    • It’s not unusual for students to be passed off from one person to another in a complex bureaucracy that they don’t understand. WE CAN FIX THIS!
  • If they sound frustrated, acknowledge that emotion. If they get disrespectful, you can request that the conversation remain respectful
  • Do your best to help resolve the issue from the student’s point of view.
    • Sometimes, all they need is a nudge in the right direction,
    • Maybe just an explanation of the various pathways they can take, and encouragement and empowerment to make decisions.


Tone & Non Verbals (Reply promptly, Reply using the same mode of the inquiry)
  • Seek to communicate in a caring yet professional tone, communications is a craft and needs to be done with intention.
  • Reply as quickly as you can.
    • If you don’t know the substantive answer to their questions, you can simply respond acknowledging their communication, and let them know that you will follow up.
  • Use the same method the student used.
    • Call back if you receive a phone call. Reply by email to an email. If they missed you when they stopped by the office, invite them to make an appointment for a later time.
  • What has campus already said on this issue, are you being consistent?
    • Include additional references and links to direct information
    • Use the UWM search tool on the homepage to try and identify a source, guide or FAQ.
    • If the question is answered in a FAQ, direct the student to the specific FAQ so they don’t have to search further.
  • If you are unsure of an answer, It’s better to explain that to the student and ask questions within the institution for clarity. Do not speculate.
    • Make it your job to find out and make sure they get to the right destination.
Stick with it! Persevere!
  • UWM is large and decentralized
    • Perseverance can be a powerful tool in navigating our services and structures. Seeking to rush or hurry the answer will not serve a student, for the institution in the long run.
  • Get misdirected inquiries back on track.
    • If a student reaches you in error, help them figure out where they need to be.
      • If you don’t know, make it your job to find out and make sure they get to the right destination.
  • Until you are sure the student is in better hands to resolve the issue, stay connected to the communications and to the student.
  • When communicating with a student whose concerns don’t directly relate to your office/department:
    • Find the department that the student should be speaking with, and then forward their concerns.
    • If you do not know the correct department, it is your responsibility to investigate the solution before replying to the student.
      • Don’t just give the student another email address:
        • * connect correct recipient in advance to make sure they are the right place to go
        • reply to the student
        • add the correct recipient to the thread
        • stay on the thread to make sure the student is getting the help they need.

Provide a roadmap

Share your process while responding to their concerns.
  • When responding substantively, inform them of what you plan to do before you do it.
    • If you have to do more digging to answer question(s), let them know you are doing that.
    • When you have to do more digging to answer a question, describe what needs to happen next, and how and when you will get back in touch.
  • UWM has someone trained and prepared to work with students and get them the answers or services they need. And, often these folks are ready resources.
  • Out of Office!
    • An out of office (OOO) notice does not need to be the end of the line for students or any university professional. While the, all too, quick reply may be discouraging, we ca all do our part to use these messages help move a process along as we begin our leave:
      • A quality Out of Office (OOO) message will not just inform the student that you are away and when you will return, but will also inform them where to receive positive, engaged, active assistance or service in your absence.
      • A great OOO will inform the recipient that you care that they get the help they need and care about them as UWM students.
Own your expertise
  • Be honest, and let the student know that you can help them find information, but you are not the person with all the answers. None of us are!
    • If you need more information, explain why and what you need to do with it.
      • If another office is directly responsible for their concerns:
        • *connect with the responsible office in advance to make sure they are the right place to go.
        • explain the process to the student
        • direct the student to that office by replying to the student and include the responsible office on the e-mail thread.
        • Remain connected until the responsible office replies and assumes responsibility for assisting the student.
      • Useful strategy: Use standard replies written in your own voice to get things started, then identify and reference FAQs or attachable guides for the most common questions, allowing you to reply quickly and fully.

Close the Loop

3 minute check ins
  • Briefly check in with the students and see if they were able to resolve their concern.
  • If applicable, check back into the unit that you forwarded the concern to:
    • Did things work out OK?
    • Is there anything that could have been handled differently?
How we talk, how we walk
  • Discuss this interaction with colleagues, supervisors and others. The more we practice talking about helping our students, the more helping our students becomes part of our practices.

Samples & Scenarios: Student Questions

A Question


I’m a sophomore and I didn’t do very well in one of my classes and I heard there was a way to change grades to pass/fail. Can you tell me how to go about it?


Poor Answers

That’s the Credit/No Credit policy, not pass/fail. You can find details on the Campus coronavirus FAQ.

This isn’t the office that handles that. You should talk to your advisor. They can help.

This has been widely advertised all over campus. Your professor should be able to tell you about it.

Better Answer

Dear Chris,

Thanks for reaching out. There’s a lot of information out there now, so the details are easy to miss. I’m happy to help. You’re looking for the Emergency Grade Accommodation for undergraduates, which was approved in April. You can find out more about it at the Campus FAQ here:

The next step is to get in touch with your academic advisor after grades are issued but before July 3 to request a conversion to CR/NC.

This has been a long semester for all of us, and I wish you all the best in the closing weeks. Hang in there. And let me know if you need anything else.


Pat P. Patterson
Courtesy Studies Department