Sign-up sheets on seemingly-revolving office doors of faculty typify this time of year in academe when students are meeting with academic advisors.  Some faculty members may see this as a fairly routine event and hopefully few see it as an annoyance that interferes with other responsibilities.  I have always viewed advisement as an opportunity to make a positive difference in advisees’ lives.  Before an advisee comes to see me, I often contemplate on who I need to be to help or inspire the student to reach maximum success.  I consider if this were my child in college, with what type of adviser would I want her to meet?  What comes to mind is someone who is kind, who listens well, who pays attention to details, who is not afraid to have difficult conversations if necessary, and who can inspire ways to realize potential.  I even reflect on the characteristics of my best advisors who were so much more than advisors, they were mentors who modeled traits I wanted to develop.

It all starts with the feeling you get when advisees walk into your office.  I think back to an interview Oprah did with Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize Novelist.  The conversation was about parenting.  One thing Oprah said was, “The common denominator in the human experience is that everybody wants just to be appreciated or validated.”  In the conversation, Toni Morrison said, “It’s interesting to see when a kid walks into the room… does your face light up? That’s what they’re looking for…when my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or their socks were up…so you think your affection and your deep love is on display cause you’re caring for them, it’s not. When they see you they see the critical face…what’s wrong now? …Let your face speak what’s in your heart…it’s just as small as that.”

I met with an advisee last week and there was a midterm grade that needed some attention.  I validated him the second he walked into my office; I hope my face lit up.  He came prepared with a list of courses he needs next semester.  I went over the fine details of his academic plan that included counting general education requirements, appropriate number of upper division credits, major requirements, courses that would help him grow as a person and make him better in his job, and a number of other requirements that ensured he will graduate on time.  We were able to sketch out a plan for the next four semesters.  Then, it was time to take it to the next level where the heart meets the mind.

Mentor Parachute

We took the time to talk about dreams and aspirations.  We then talked about new study habits he could try that would allow him to reach those dreams and aspirations.  The conversation then went to daily living habits with friends and roommates and how these habits may be helping or impeding success.  We ended by me stating my belief in him to be successful and stating my door is always open if he needs anything.

There is so much more to the anatomy of good advising than making sure students meet major requirements and have 120 credits when they finish. Good advisement begins with the heart, moves to the mind, finds ways to connect the heart and the mind, and ends with the heart.  It is this holistic approach that presents an opportunity for advisees to feel their inner strength in ways they may have never imagined.  Create new doors of possibility in their minds and invite them to go through with heart.


EHHS Share Value Highlighted:  Helping Students Achieve Goals


Oprah and Toni Morrison (n.d.). http://www.momentsthatdefinelife.com/do-your-eyes-light-up-oprahs-life-class/

Cartoon (2015). Retrieved April 4, 2015 from http://www.trueyou.guru/category/mentoring/

Image (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2015 from: http://www.pearlsofresilience.com/your-mind-heart-the-reality-of-their-positions/