It is a misnomer that professional advisors are simply schedule builders; there is so much more to this mysterious advising world that many know little about. Institutions of higher education have noticed the importance good advising has on retention and graduation rates, as well as over-all student experience. So, what do advisors do? To start, we are the resource distributers that connect students with what they need when they find themselves struggling (and we are so lucky that Ohio University provides many wonderful support resources). Even more importantly, we build relationships with students and create a safe zone where they can talk about their struggles—no grades attached. We are open hands, open hearts, and open doors, ready to accept the student that comes to us just as they are. We continually learn and study best practices in advising through professional development, keeping up with new scholarship so that we can provide the best supportive environment ensuring that, we not only retain the students, but that they thrive while they are here. We assist faculty and instructors by providing trainings and a contact to answer questions they may have about the best way to proceed with a student in a challenging situation. We are devoted to the success and wellbeing of our advisees.
Here are some stories from the advising trenches to give you a better idea of why we love what we do:
“As an advisor, I get to really hear the stories of student’s lives, learn about their passions, and assist them with any struggles they might be having. This is why I have the best job! I had an advisee who never had to study in high school and consistently got good grades. He was enrolled in the Pre-Professional Biology track, which is very strenuous. He came to see me after he got a poor grade on his first test in Biology and was very upset. I talked him through the resources we have on campus that could help him, including everything available through the Academic Achievement Center. I showed him how to access TutorTrac and set up weekly tutor sessions for him. He came back a month later to tell me that he got an A on his next test. We both cheered and I got so much joy out of his success.” (Melanie is a Student Success Advisor in the College of Fine Arts)
“I advised a student who really struggled with time management, and the traditional solutions didn’t seem to help. He strongly disliked schedules and couldn’t stick to them. After one conversation, he decided to try a different tactic – do something before 9 p.m. He would choose his main priority for the day to complete before 9 p.m., and if he met that goal, he could spend the rest of the evening however he liked. He found the reward of free time every day so motivating that he even started googling other new ideas to try. I met this student several years ago, and I am still retelling that story to other students. I love that advising lets me work with students individually to help find solutions that will work for them, and that I learn from their good ideas too.” (Julie is a Student Success Advisor in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology)
“I advised a student who really struggled during his first year. He was on probation after his fall quarter (this was a long time ago) and then got dismissed after winter quarter. He came back to campus as a part of the Turning Points program, which is a “last chance” opportunity for students who are willing to commit to making big changes in pursuit of academic success. He made good use of his last quarter that year, attending every class, completing all his assignments, and really engaging in his coursework. He chose a major during his sophomore year after he was removed from probation, so I didn’t see him as much after that. One day, as I was walking down Court Street I ran into him. He was about ready to graduate, and he had been accepted to medical school. I was inspired by how much he had grown and learned, and grateful that Ohio University is a place full of opportunity and redemption!” (Jenny is an Assistant Dean in University College)
“As an advisor, I strongly believe that every student has potential and every advising session is a mutual learning experience. Students sometimes start with a wrong major due to some external influences. I feel so content when I guide my students toward their goal by looking into their abilities and aptitudes. One of my students was struggling in Biology classes. She took a Media Arts & Studies course for her Tier II and started loving that course. She later started taking more Media courses and eventually changed her major to Integrated Media. She visited me toward the end of the semester with so much excitement about her new major. There was another student who was doing so well in her Biology major, but she was somehow not enjoying her classes. Due to her interest in Political Science, we are now working toward Political Science-Prelaw major. She was so happy that I referred her to the Pre-Law Advising Center. Stories like these make it evident that advising, if delivered accurately, can have a huge impact on student persistence and retention. The joy and excitement of my students as they accomplish their goals make my job worthwhile.” (Suraiya is a Student Success Advisor with biological sciences)
From the student perspective
“I had excellent experiences with Betsy [Kunstel] as my advisor. She was always knowledgeable about not only classes within the Health Services Administration major, but in electives as well. She is extremely friendly and personable, so she is someone that I enjoyed speaking with. …advisors do more than just make a schedule—they get to know a student's interests and can suggest things based off of those. Betsy was extremely helpful to me. I had a complicated background being that I'm a fifth year transfer, and I didn't know what I wanted to do. Betsy took a lot of time reviewing different majors and my credits to help me figure out a major that both considered my need to get done quickly and to transfer as much as possible. She then helped me figure out what my next couple steps would be. I had been really stressed about these choices I had to make and Betsy helped me all the way through it.”