Making Sense of Advisement in a Dr. Seuss World

Categories: 2014 June 37:2

Amanda Baldridge, Murray State College

Amanda Maldridge.jpgFrom Biffer-Baum Birds to Bingle Bugs, Collapsible Frinks to Fiffer-feffer-feffs, and Long Legger Kwongs to Nerkles, Whos and Plain-Belly Sneetches --   I think we get the picture and now I’ll stop!

In the cleverly spun world of Dr. Seuss, where things don’t make sense and yet seem to come together, the lessons presented are really quite clever. 

Beginning college can be a daunting task for most people.  Maneuvering through the minefields of the application process, understanding and filing for financial aid, applying for scholarships, choosing a major, deciding what courses to take, thinking about credit hours and GPA, understanding syllabi, majors and minors…it’s enough to make a person’s head spin! 

And yet, it is during all the chaos that the vision and mission of the academic advisor becomes clear: to help students navigate these cleverly spun worlds and find the clarity that will provide the opportunity for lifelong learning.

“ASAP.  Whatever that means.  It must mean, “Act Swiftly Awesome Pachyderm!” – Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who!

Students can experience a lot of confusion with the lingo of higher education.  As advisors, it is our job to make sure students understand the verbiage so they don’t walk away lost or make up information as they go.  Students support and talk with each other, and if the correct information is not readily available, we may have an epidemic of misinformation circling through our campuses!

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.

It can be frustrating working with students who just can’t seem to get all their ducks in a row.  They always have an excuse ready, attendance is an issue, they don’t appear to have school as a priority, and I wonder how I am going to help retain this student to degree completion.  I have tried the phone calls, the e-mails, the Facebook messages and the letters.  I have tried referring to programs, spoken with faculty and provided resources.  Just when I am about to wash my hands of the whole situation, I remember, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  Advisors make the difference, one student at a time. Advisors plant those seeds, and it is advisors who continue to water the ground in hopes something beautiful will grow.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

When working with students on degree plans and mapping out courses needed to complete programs, I have found students often question why they have to take certain courses, such as humanities or liberal arts or algebra.  Often I hear, “but I’m never going to use it!”  It is during these times they need to be reminded of how important it is to constantly be looking to learn more information.   Reading and being introduced to new information causes creativity and thought processes to soar. Students may never know what bit of information will take them exactly where they want to be.

“Oh, the thinks you can think!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

Academic advisors have the unique responsibility to encourage students to think: to think through their goals and plans, think through their scheduling, think through the course requirements, think through their actions and consequences, and to think about their futures.  It is at this time in their lives they can explore the world of possibilities that are open to them for future careers and experiences.  The thinks they are thinking now can determine the altitude their thoughts will take them!

“My trouble was I had a mind but I couldn’t make it up!” – Dr. Seuss, Hunches in Bunches.

According to wiki.answers.com, the average college student changes his or her major three times.  How many of us started out knowing what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives?  Some exploration in college is healthy, especially when students try new things, research potential careers, and find new interests.  It is our job as advisors to channel these explorations in a pattern that makes sense, to assist students on clear paths that plan for curves and detours.  Advisors set the tone, they provide the thought-provoking questions that determine the course of action, and they provide alternate routes should they be needed to maximize the stops on the academic road trip.

“And this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up.  There is no way at all!” – Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat.

It is during a time like this when the strengths of an academic advisor shine: when students feel they are in over their heads, life has caught them unaware and academic courses seem like unsurmountable obstacles.  It is during this time that academic advisors can be the calm voice of reason that provides an anchor.  We listen, we sympathize, we rationalize, we provide insight, and we encourage students to stand up tall and identify what factors helped create the mess; then we help pick it up, one issue at a time.

“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.  And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Academic advisors have many proud moments when working with students.  One of these moments is when our “success stories” overcome the academic hurdles set before them and they walk across our stages.  At the community college level our students may be fearful of transferring to a four-year school; our job is to send them on with confidence and assurance they have what is needed to be just as successful at their new school.  At the four-year level, the workforce looms, creating new anxieties.  Some of our final acts as advisors include one last confidence booster as they head out the door.  It is time, you are ready and the choice is yours. Choose wisely.

Amanda Baldridge
Director of Academic Advisement
Murray State College
abaldridge@mscok.edu

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