Steps to establishing student relationships

Categories: Advising Students

Note: The following article first appeared in August 1991 in the Academic Advising News 13(3) It was reprinted as a portion of the 25th anniversary celebration of the National Academic Advising Association.


A Caring Attitude

Authored by Jerry L. Ford


The finest possible educational environment includes the availability of outstanding academic advising and a genuine caring attitude toward the student - inseparable partners in higher education. Some simple suggestions for demonstrating a genuine caring attitude by all advising personnel include:

1) Greeting advisees with a smile.

 

Care enough to greet advisees with a warm welcome and a million-dollar smile to help ease student anxiety. Your smile costs nothing, yet it means everything!

2) Radiating a friendly attitude

Be sure that a friendly attitude radiates from your office setting. Try to make advisees feel that in your office they can expect concern, compassion, friendliness, encouragement, trust, and confidence. Anyone with advising responsibilities (including the office secretary or receptionist) must never react to a student as though the student is an interruption of work. The student, after all is the office work!

3) Having an interesting office

 

Strive to have a physically attractive and interesting office - perhaps with live plants, paintings or pictures on the walls, and soft background music. The office might be decorated in a specific theme such as the school mascot or a particular kind of plant or color scheme. The office should be a haven of enjoyment and conversation for advisees who enter.

4) Knowing the names of advisees

 

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the names of advisees. Call the students by their first names so that they will feel at ease during advising sessions.


5) Avoiding threatening actions

 

Care enough to avoid threatening body language. When possible, sit on the same side of your desk with your advisees. You should not let the desk of authority separate you from your advisees and thus cause you to lose some of your advising effectiveness. Also, you should face the advisee squarely. This posture transmits the message that you are available to the student, that you care about the student, and that you want to assist the student.

6) Maximizing efficiency

Demonstrate your caring attitude by maximizing efficiency and minimizing mistakes when dealing with advisees. Have enough pride in advising activities so that your work is as error free as possible. University life and academic programs are too complicated for guess work. Accurate information, appropriate forms, and other advising responsibilities should be correct the first time to reduce advising hassles for both the student and the advisor. And, if mistakes are made, admit them.

7) Letting the "Shuttle Stop with You"

When an advisee has a question or needs help, let the "Shuttle Stop with You." No student should leave your office without getting assistance. If you don't know the answer or you can't solve the problem, take time to identify the problem solver, locate the problem solver, and involve the problem solver in assisting the student.

8) Seeing advisees frequently

Show advisees that you care about them by seeing them frequently and on an informal basis. Visit with them in the cafeteria and the student center, in corridors between classes, and at various campus functions. Be approachable, flexible, and accessible, and by all means share you phone number, office location, and office hours with your advisees.

 

9) Being a good example

Exemplifying a caring, helpful attitude in deeds and actions can make or break your advising reputation. The word can spread almost instantly about the type of person and advisor you are and about the type of office you operate. Is a red carpet rolled out, or is a thorn bush posted?

10) Practicing empathy

 

You should put yourself in the shoes of your advisees. To paraphrase the golden rule, "Do unto your advisees as you would have had your advisor do unto you."

Outstanding academic advising and a genuine caring attitude - combine them, practice them, and share them; then reap the benefits!

Authored by Jerry L. Ford