Thankfully, going to college was an expectation in my family with little if any room for choice.  Many of the lessons I learned when I got to college were not from books.   I share one of the lessons with you today.  Many years ago, about this time of year, I was setting up an advisement meeting with a new professor.   I was a junior who was taking the privilege of going to college for granted – concentrating on my studies was not a high enough priority.  I went to my advisement meeting with Dr. LaVerne Baker, who told me she was not going to let me slide by anymore.  She said I could consider changing my major if  I wanted to continue on my current path.  She was a powerful person with an amazing presence whose words rested heavily on my consciousness.  Amid her tough words, I could tell that she really cared.  I had never had an “advisement meeting” like that before. 

The next semester, I took a neurology class from Dr. Baker.  I was determined to show her that I could do more than slide by.  After many disciplined hours of studying, I earned one of the top grades in the class.  Instead of me “showing her” she showed me what I was capable of accomplishing.  She never quit challenging me and helping me discover the true joy of learning.  She was a caring mentor who provided powerful advice in a way that respected my adaptive/developmental growth.   She is the reason I started believing that God is a black woman.

After having Dr. Baker as an advisor-mentor, I carefully selected my next “academic advisor” for graduate school.  I knew the importance of this relationship and knew that it went far beyond making sure I was signing up for the right classes.  Fortunately, I had great academic advisor-mentors with qualities that included: deep listening, caring, challenging, guiding, professionalism, enthusiasm, and respect.  Sometimes it was just a gentle head nod as I was speaking or a suggestion that always respected the power of choice.   Their wisdom never came from an ego that dictated a way of being.  They all gave from the heart with the realization that the title of advisor was limiting.

This blog gives you a peek into why I feel strongly about good advising and mentoring.  The words of many advisor-mentors are in the fabric of my soul and I can only pay them back by paying it forward (yes, I still have advisees).  As good advisor-mentors, we each have the opportunity to serve our students in a way that defines the caring atmosphere we are known for at SUNY Plattsburgh.  As advisor-mentors, we have the power to help students envision and build paths to unimagined futures.   My hope is that we will show them the paths of possibility through a caring relationship that deepens trust and respect.  

** EHHS Shared Values highlighted in this blog: 1. Respect and empathy, 3. Growth, 5. Helping students achieve goals, 6. Service, 7. Professionalism, and 10. Honesty.