GradConnect - Graduate Student e-Newsletter
January 2017 - Published periodically by the Office of Graduate Studies.
Issue 39

Feedforward: the New Alternative to Feedback

Feedforward is an up-and-coming word being used to replace the word feedback. For many students and professionals, the words feedback and criticism immediately cause anxiety. Feedback and criticism focus on past mistakes and do not always include suggestions for improvement. Feedforward focuses on preparing for future success rather than concentrating on bad past performance, which is why more and more supervisors are using it.

The manner in which feedforward is given out, is just as important as the manner in which it is received. Some things to consider include using a private setting, facilitating an open dialogue, and focusing on improvement. While being called into the boss’ office may seem scary, it can be more intimidating to have an audience. Finding a quiet, private space (neutral if possible) to talk allows all parties involved to think clearly and reflect on what is being said. This will help facilitate an open two way conversation.
One way to start the conversation or broach a difficult topic is to use “I” statements, using the word “you” can come across as accusatory and lead to defensiveness. Keep in mind however, that just sticking an “I” in front of a sentence does not change the harshness of the sentence. It may be more effective to ask questions rather than make accusations, for example “I have noticed you seem a bit distracted lately, is everything okay?” This comes across as being concerned for the person, if they say they are fine, you can provide examples of concerns you have and open the dialogue to discuss with them positive action steps. After stating your observations, give the recipient time to process and respond. Some people take longer than others. In some cases it may even be beneficial to take a five minute breather. A conversation involving feedforward should be just that, a conversation, two sided and include input from both parties.

On the other side of the conversation, it can take practice to respectfully and calmly receive feedforward. Neither side of the conversation should be an attack. When receiving feedback a common response would be to immediately come up with reasons to defend your actions. This is why feedforward is helpful. Try viewing it as an opportunity to help you do your best, learn, and grow. Instead of jumping in right away with a harsh response, take a moment to pause and listen to what is being said. Remaining calm shows the other person that you can handle confrontation and conduct yourself in a respectful manner. If possible, always try to come prepared with a pen and paper to write down suggestions for the future. Try to get in the habit of grabbing a small note pad and pen but, if this is not an option, ask to have an email sent to you with the feedforward information written down. This will show that you are serious about remembering what was said and implementing changes for improvement. Feedforward should stimulate growth and learning for success in the future.

In addition to what you say, make a conscious effort to monitor your body language. Your body language is often forgotten about and can set the tone for the entire conversation. The next time you find yourself in this situation, try taking a few deep breaths before speaking and avoid crossing your arms or rolling your eyes. Practice positive body language such as straight but relaxed posture, arms at your sides, and appropriate eye contact. Keep in mind that it is common for the words we use to be subconsciously influenced by our body language. Adjusting your body language can help you remain calm and composed.

Try to always remain open to change and growth. Although feedforward conversations can be tough to have, without them, we would all become stagnant in our work and development. Remember the key point of feedforward is to have an open, honest conversation to work towards growth and improvement for the future.


The Write Idea: Professional Emails

Now that virtually everyone has a mobile device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, email has become one of the most common methods of communication. Even though email is as easy and convenient as sending a text, it has a different set of etiquette standards. The use of proper etiquette can either help or hinder the recipient’s perception of the sender. Try thinking of composing an email more like writing a letter, than a text message. Consider the following five points to help you avoid common email mistakes.

1. Always make sure you have the correct email address. This may seem like common sense but with the ability to write and send emails on phones mistyping, autocorrect, and multiple address books increases the chances of making a mistake. Additionally, when writing a new email address down, take a minute to read back the address. This will help to prevent situations where you have the wrong email address with no way of getting the correct one or emailing the wrong person. A useful hint when emailing Utica College faculty or staff, is to verify the email address by typing their name into the search bar of the homepage.

2. Use an appropriate subject. Always be sure to include a subject. The subject line should give the reader a general understanding of what the email will be about. Emails without subjects can be easily over looked, lost, forgotten about, or deemed as less important. Did you know in Gmail you can search for words in the subject line to help you find a message? The subject should clear, concise and to the point. It may even be beneficial to write the body of the email first, then go back and use the key words of you message to form the subject.

3. Use the appropriate means of communication. If the body of the email is longer than a paragraph or two, send an email asking to set up an appointment to meet in person or talk over the phone to discuss the subject matter. Be sure to include a brief explanation regarding what the appointment is about (see tips for subject line). Sometimes a verbal conversation is faster than email. What could take multiple email exchanges over the course of a few days could take five minutes over the phone or in person. Also explaining a complicated situation in an email can lead to miscommunication.

4. Use a professional signature. A professional signature should include; your name, phone number and email address, you may also choose to include your degree and graduation year. This provides the reader a reminder of your credentials and easy access to your contact information. Adding inspirational quotes or a company logo is acceptable as long as all language is appropriate and the signature does not become unnecessarily long.

5. Emails are not the time for emoji’s. The use of emoji’s has become an accepted form of communication for many young adults, but including an emoji within a professional email is not appropriate. You will also want to avoid abbreviations and acronyms as they can cause confusion or frustration for the reader. Remember not everyone knows what HAGN, TTYL, etc. means. In regards to abbreviations keep in mind that one abbreviation can have multiple meanings depending on the context and what profession you are in. For example ADA could mean Americans with Disabilities Act or American Dental Association.

Finally, remember to keep the format of your email simple and easy to read by choosing an easy to read font in black text with a white background (if your recipient is color blind they might not be able to see colored fonts and backgrounds). Before you hit send you will still need to do a spelling and grammar check and include any attachments so you do not discredit your effort up until this point. Following these tips will help you construct well written, respectable, professional emails. A skill that every graduate student should have.

*The Office of Career Services provided much of the information for this article and is available to answer any further questions on this subject that may come up.

Contact Information:
The Office of Career Services
Rm 206, Strebel Student Center


In this edition:


Important Dates:

Please note upcoming deadlines:
February 20 - D1 withdraw deadline

March 10 - D1 ends

March 13 - D2 begins

March 13-17 - Spring Break

March 31 - Full term withdraw deadline

April 1 - Application for degree deadline

April 1 - Commencement RSVP and regalia order deadline

April 3 - Summer and Fall registration begins

April 17 - D2 withdraw deadline

April 30 - Full term classes end

May 5 - D2 ends

May 6 - Graduate Commencement

May 7 - Degree conferral date

May 7 -Approved Phase III form, capstone ETD submission, and thesis defense deadline

May 10 - Comprehensive exam and portfolio deadline

Graduate Student Lounge:

Did you know there is a lounge available for graduate students in the Office of Graduate Studies? Whether you are looking for a quiet place to study, relax or hang out with friends between classes, the graduate student lounge is perfect! There is a Keurig available for hot coffee and a laptop/TV to work on group projects. Also be sure to check out our Facebook (Utica College Graduate Student Organization) and Instagram (ucgradlife2016) for announcements on events happening this spring! If you would like more information on the Office of Graduate Studies and the services provided please visit our
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