As a junior faculty member, I was fortunate to receive extensive training on university, general education, and major requirements; however, witnessing the exemplary advising practices of my colleagues has been even more formative to my growth as a faculty advisor. In this capacity, my primary mission is to give students the confidence and agency to navigate the collegiate environment so that they can achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals. What follows is a set of core principles that I believe are required to fulfill this duty.
Monitor academic progress. One of the most essential elements of academic advising is helping students choose which courses to take and the most suitable time to take them. To this end, I remain vigilant in mastering continually changing course requirements. I also inquire about my advisees’ academic interests and career goals to make their educational experience efficient, economical, and useful to their future endeavors. Helping students prioritize necessary courses over those that are more tangential to their career aspirations is especially important to our students at Western Oregon University, who must frequently juggle school, work, and family demands. A common hurdle many students must overcome to achieve academic success – particularly freshmen and first-generation students – is adjusting to college life. Consequently, I make an effort to raise students’ awareness of campus resources, stress the importance of being organized (e.g., using a date planner), and teach students evidence-based study strategies.
Reach out. I find that maintaining regular communication with my advisees (e.g., emails about registration deadlines or campus events) reminds them of my presence should they need academic advice. In addition, I proactively schedule face-to-face meetings with my advisees as I believe this provides a unique opportunity to highlight their successes. We all find it rewarding and motivating to hear that an authority figure noticed one’s own hard work. For that reason, I try to pinpoint a recent success – whether small (e.g., a well-articulated and professional email) or large (e.g., a passing grade in a notoriously difficult course) – for each of my advisees to celebrate. Many students struggle to recognize their own efforts or fail to find recognition from family members, especially among our population of first-generation students. My hope is that my advisees will continue working hard to impress me, knowing that I am happy to serve as their cheerleader instead of – or in addition to – their friends and family.
Broaden the advising terrain. My office is a convenient central hub for advising; in it I maintain regular office hours and store numerous pamphlets relating to course requirements, campus resources, and career opportunities. Nevertheless, I find that the majority of my advising takes place outside of my office. This is in part due to the emphasis I place on being accessible to students. Given our busy schedules, brief hallway conversations allow me to answer students’ questions after class or on-the-go, freeing up time for more extensive conversations (e.g., graduate school advice) when I am in my office. In addition, I am currently experimenting with an online office hour each week to reach students who cannot make it into campus. Some of the most personal advising I have provided has been with my research assistants and Honors thesis students as many of them share the same career goals as I had as an undergraduate. Thus, I feel strongly that advising should not be limited to my official advisees or confined to the walls of my office but extended to all students and as many academic settings as possible.
The principles outlined in this document will morph as I adapt to changes in the collegiate environment, learn of new technologies that increase accessibility, and incorporate the latest pedagogical findings into my advising practices. Balancing the many demands of being a faculty advisor is a work-in-progress; however, it is a worthwhile effort as I believe effective advising increases student retention, furthers students’ personal and intellectual growth, and helps students realize career goals that many never thought possible.