Peggy Delmas, Advising Education Majors Chair
Quality advising is so much more than knowing curriculum requirements or being able to recite institutional policies and procedures. It involves a personal touch, the ability to put a face on the institution for students. True quality advising requires the advisor to be human, not bureaucratic. I would like to think that my students view my office as a safe haven. It is a place where they can come for what we think of as typical advising services such as major exploration and course scheduling, but also to share accomplishments, concerns and frustrations, and to seek advice on things outside the confines of their academic lives.
Quality advising is helping a student mesh the demands of his or her academic life with the demands of his or her personal and work life. I think of the student whose mother is dying of cancer and how I 'advised' him. I listened to his concerns. I urged him to tell his instructors what's going on, why he's missed class, why he's behind in assignments. I sent him a hand-written note to let him know that I truly care what's happening to him and his family. I provided documentation to the appeals office in support of the students case. I continue to check on the student, stop him in the hallway to find out how he's doing. Most importantly of all I don't forget him.
I think of the student who was physically assaulted over a weekend and how she waited until Monday morning to tell any-one. I was the one she told because she was sure I would know what to do. I was so humbled by the amount of faith and trust this student placed in me. I spent most of the day with her in the emergency room. I contacted her instructors and spoke with her supervisor at work. I referred her to a counselor. Today she is better physically and still healing emotionally. Together we continue to work towards her educational goals.
I try to give students what I think they need from me. A tissue, a letter of recommendation, words of encouragement or congratulations, a smile of recognition in the hall that says, 'You are important to me.' Since I represent the institution, it means that the student is important to the institution, too. Of course not all advising is complicated and involved. What most of our students need is for us to answer 'just one quick question,' and don't we love that? But sometimes our advisees and their life situations require us to stand up and be brave, kind, caring and resourceful. That is quality advising. It's the whole package, not just our responsibilities as narrowly defined in a job description moldering away in a file somewhere. Come to think of it, that thing could use an overhaul!
Director of Student Services
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Cite this article using APA style as: Delmas, P. (2002, June). The 'quality' in advising. Academic Advising Today, 25(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]