to help or not to help…

5 Dec

I like to think I gracefully walk the tight rope between helping my students and helping my students. What I mean by that, is that my job is to help: to identify and create solutions, to support and encourage, to provide guidance and explanations. My job is not to help: let students enroll if they haven’t gotten their transcripts in, glaze over the attendance policy because you needed to work extra hours, tell students when their final exams meet, etc. Sometimes students ask for things, and my nature of servant leadership flies in and wants to do it for them. Sometimes students ask for things, and my impatient type-A nature flies in and knows I could do it faster and better than the student and wants me to do it for them. In each of these scenarios, though, it is my job as an academic advisor to evaluate the situation and judge – what would create the best opportunity for the student to grow, to take responsibility, to learn, or to maybe even make a necessary mistake?

Advisors, do you experience the same thing? How do you decide how & how much to help your students?

Students, how do you expect advisors to help you? Are you surprised by what your advisor will or won’t do to help you?


Talking about the “C” word…

19 Nov

Last week, I decided to approach a scary topic… CAREERS. Although my students are just freshmen, I feel it is extremely important to begin discussing careers very early on. First off, each student in my course (22 of them) wrote on the very first week of class that they are here (Cameron/college in general) to get a degree to make money, get a job, find a career, etc. It is the center of their motivation for doing well, so why wait to talk about it until graduation? After all, graduation starts today.

I assigned them with the task of searching out entry-level job listings in their field, scouring them for required KSAs, and then proving to me how their coursework and extracurricular activities are helping them to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities they will need to make their six-figure paycheck right out of college. (I will let them be graduating seniors before I burst this bubble!) The second part of the assignment was to write a mock cover letter for one of the job listings. I changed it to a cover letter and not an essay because I want them to get some practice at explaining their contributions and abilities.

I wanted to do this project for two main reasons. The first being what I mentioned above, that I really want my students to know ahead of time exactly what they hope to gain from college aside from the beloved piece of paper. Will they become leaders? Will they develop amazing communication skills? Will they master the latest technology and be able to problem-solve? I hope that seeing this will motivate the students to become more actively involved in their own academic journey – to choose challenging courses, to find a student organization that is the right fit, and to select a major that works (not just one their parents want for them, or one they think will make them a lot of money).

Second, I am trying to give them what I felt I was lacking as an undergraduate. I claim the fault 100%, but I was under-prepared for the “real world” upon graduation. I took all the right courses and I graduated a semester early, but I didn’t take the time to really discover what I wanted, who I wanted to be, and to take FULL advantage of everything that my wonderful alma mater had to offer me.

Advisors, how early do you have career conversations with your students? Do you often experience resistance or cluelessness? How do you combat it?

Students, what kinds of questions do you have? Ask them!


22 Oct

I often refer to myself (lovingly) as the crazy bag lady. Most days, I come to work bearing my large, purple purse, packed to the brim with daily necessities, my pack-pack containing textbooks and notebooks, a lunch pail holding several variations of healthy fats to get me through the day, a bag of workout clothes, my cell phone in one hand and coffee in the other. It’s like I move in and out of my office daily. This morning, my tremendous amount of baggage started me wondering what kind of baggage my students have. What types of expectations did they have about college – and have they been completely shattered yet? What kinds of outside ideas, pressures, and needs affect the young adults that enter my office or my classroom every week? As an academic advisor, sometimes these things come up in conversation and sometimes they don’t. As an instructor, I try to offer advice and guidance on how to navigate these troubles. As a leader, I often want to serve as a supportive figure for the students who are no-doubt going through some transition pains. What issues have you seen affect your students and how did you offer support or guidance for them? Inspiring stories welcome!

What baggage did you bring to college?

UNIV 1001

29 Sep

Hello, readers! I’d like to share some thoughts about my “Intro to University Life” class this semester. First and foremost, I have so much love for this group of kids. I told them on the first day that I want to: have the BEST class and be able to brag on them, to not give a final exam (because everyone has an “A”), and for them to all be friends. So far, I think I am accomplishing those things. They have impressed me with their attendance – most of them show up every single week (we meet W at 1:00). They have impressed me with their honesty – they are willing to share their experiences, ideas, and complaints. They have impressed me with their creativity – two of my students created a rap about responsibility. All in all, they are a great bunch. I am looking forward to the rest of the semester as we dive deeper into some more thought-provoking topics like diversity, career assessment, goal-setting, and time management.

Reflection: Principles of Effective Advising (Part 5)

18 Sep

Hello, readers. This time of year is the most hectic for us as we open our doors for “walk-in” advising which means that each student may need 1 of a million different things that I may or may not be able to help them with! It makes for long, tiring days that can seem unproductive. All in all, this time of year reminds us that as advisors we must always be on our toes and that our jobs really do require attention to detail. Mistakes can easily be made when we are tired, frustrated, and stressed. I’m thankful for an environment where we are encouraged to take our time and adhere to policy at times when the “easy thing” is so tempting.

I want to wrap up my 5-part series on the Principles of Effective Advising as discussed in the Chapter 5 of  Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. If you’d like, go back and read parts 1, 2, 3, & 4.

5. Recognize that advising is a cultural and culture-bound activity. Mr. Kuh provides several questions to discuss. Related to advising, he asks

  • To what degree do the efforts of advisors complement other institution student success initiatives?
    • The student success initiatives coming this Fall 2013 include a new office – Teaching & Learning – to supervise and coordinate the First-Year experience for our freshmen. The qualified advisors support this initiative by teaching a section or two of this course. In my opinion, if we had the man-power and skill, this would be *best* implemented by having one section for each major taught by the advisor and a faculty member or an advising faculty member and a senior student. I think this would give the most comprehensive support to students. For me, it is hard to ensure my class is relevant because I am not in the faculty world. For example, I would like to assign my students to use blackboard, give presentations, and do group projects because I know I was required to do things like that further into my college career. However, if the departments don’t expect this type of training, our time could be spent elsewhere.
  • To what extent do advisors challenge students to go beyond what they are expected to do in college?
    • As we continue to set high expectations, our students continue to meet them. We (the advising center) have been here for two years and have significantly impacted the Cameron culture already. [Check out this old picture!] More on that notion in a later post.
  • In what ways do advisors interact with students? Is it meaningful?
    • Most importantly, we interact with brand new students. We are often times their first face-to-face interaction at the university. This is certainly the most important interaction, as we are introducing them to the expectations, requirements, and benefits of CU however it is not the most meaningful because we haven’t developed that advising relationship yet. During the semester, the “good” students come and see us and have their questions answered. These are some of my favorite times to meet with my students because there is no time-crunch, no enrollment transaction to be processed, and the students are really open to advising, discussion, and ideas.
    • Personally, I interact with my students at the gym a lot of the time. I also tend to see several of my students off-campus where they are employed at restaurants, the mall, etc. These are meaningful interactions to me because I am so much looser and able to communicate on a personal level. I think the students enjoy it, too, because they know I’m just a regular person shopping and eating just like them.
  • To what extent do advisors contribute to programs and activities that socialize first-year students to the academic expectations of the institution?
    • Here is where I will have to say, we are not as effective as we could be. The link that is currently lacking for us is that advisors are not a part of the orientation process. It is a separate event that occurs after registration and after classes have begun.
    • The best part of my job is getting to teach an FYE course called UNIV 1001 (lots of posts on this to come!). That is where I really get to drive home the importance of time management, proper communication with instructors, goal-setting, motivation, and academic planning.
  • To what extent do advisors encourage students to take advantage of curricular and co-curricular diversity experiences to enhance the quality of students’ learning?
    • This is one area where we could improve, I think. It is extremely hard to keep up with all of our students on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The ones who need the extra push to get involved are usually the students who only contact me 1-3 times per YEAR. There are so many resources available at Cameron for students of various interests, and it’s a shame that they are not more utilized.
  • What are you not doing with your advising program that you should?
    • More regular contact and relationship development: I know this is something that could be extremely effective at Cameron, as I have seen its effects on my UNIV students (weekly contact), but I don’t know how to go about organizing it myself. Sometimes a little bit of shame even pops up – I wonder if the students even want to hear from me during the semester. I wonder if I know what to say if they do have an issue they need to discuss.
    • Career “stuff”: This is a tricky one. I would like more overlap between Career Services and Academic Advising. I think for the most part, students don’t think they need career services until their senior year or beyond, but that is not true. I would like to send them there to do personality/strengths assessment, but I would rather do those things in-house so it can coincide with academic advising more smoothly. I would like to be better trained in career advising as well. There are times when students ask me questions that I honestly have no idea about – i.e. why to major in English for law school, what to major in to be a psychiatrist, etc.
    • Working more closely with department faculty: I don’t know the key to this. I feel like I have (finally!) developed good relationships with my departments (Psychology, Education, and Health/PE), yet there are still major issues that I feel could be addressed, things I get left out of, things they would like for me to do differently, etc.


Necessary Skills for Today’s Learners

24 Jul

Hello readers! It is “crunch time” in the advising world as many of you know. I’d like to share some interesting articles to keep the blog up while I’m busy! Enjoy and look for upcoming posts about the 5th principle of effective advising, the conclusion of my student athlete advising course, and preparation for my last semester of grad school!

Tips For Student Success

The 12 Must-Have Skills Of Modern Learners by Jeff Dunn, Edudemic
Skills and Attributes of Today’s Learner
  1. Effective oral & written communication
  2. Collaboration across networks
  3. Agility & adaptability
  4. Grit
  5. Resilience
  6. Empathy & global stewardship
  7. Vision
  8. Self-regulation
  9. Hope & optimism
  10. Curiosity & imagination
  11. Initiative & entrepreneurialism
  12. Critical thinking & problem-solving
The above list is from User Generated Education (Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.). Read more about each skill in her blog posts.

Image: ©

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Shared Post: Only Four Jobs in the World

27 Jun

Only Four Jobs in the World

I love this explanation of academic advising!! I see myself, as an advisor, as an improver. I don’t yet have the background or experience to be a builder but I definitely always wear my thinking cap and hope to someday pursue a position in which I get to build models and processes.

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