Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wacky Weather Wednesday

There has been a very distinct pattern of severe weather alerts this month. Every Wednesday, the stars align, and a severe weather alert is issued. This week is no different and the sky outside is dark and frightening. I've jokingly started referring to this psuedo-phenomena as "wacky weather Wednesday." Part of my job as an academic advisor is to notice patterns. Noticing patterns in students' behavior can help me to identify potential barriers to success and hopefully impact the students enough to alter that behavior before it inhibits their academic success. It was appeals week here at Cameron University and I have had the privelege of meeting with students re-admitted after being academically suspended from the university. I enjoy talking with these students, because 1) I really want to help them get it together and 2) I feel as though I grow as an advisor through dealing with these tougher situations.
Helping them "get it together" is a mighty task. I try my best to be nonjudgmental toward their situation and give them the opportunity to be honest with me about how they became suspended and what behavioral (or attitudinal!) modifications they can make. On the other hand, because of my nature, I tend to want to make them feel better about their situation. I worry that sometimes I may underplay what a BIG deal it is to get suspended. One thing I do with each student no matter what is to go over grade point calculations. I show them first how to calculate it by hand so that I am certain they understand how it works. Next, I use the website to do the GPA calculator so that the student gets a very realistic understanding of exactly what he or she needs to do to regain good academic standing. I don't ever have as much time with them as I would like, as it is one of the busier times of year, but then again if they haven't listened to all the free advice available thus far what makes me think they want to listen to me for an hour? 
On the selfish hand, I like these tough situations because it gives me a chance to practice the more confrontational, strict side of advising. I am very rarely stern with students because it's not my style. However, I do need to hone the ability to get my point across in a serious situation like a student facing second suspension or losing scholarships, financial aid, etc.
To my peers- what advice or resources do you have for new advisors advising students on academic probation, readmitted from academic appeals, or in danger of either of those?
And to my students, I am always here to listen, to creatively solve problems, to strategize an academic plan, and to share my story if you'll let me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Thanks for coming back, readers. Today's post isn't my proudest. I am, in fact, human and sometimes I make mistakes. (Insert GASP here) One of my students today called me out because, in all of the chaos of my daily job, I accidentally sent her a forwarded email of a somewhat negative comment I had made to a colleague about her. The student asked to be assigned to another advisor which I was happy to do. I apologized and referred her to my wonderful neighbor advisor. Normally, something like this would really get under my skin and potentially hurt my feelings and embarrass me. However, I know a couple truisms about myself and about humans in general. Chances are, everyone in our field has expressed their annoyance or frustration with a student to a co-worker at some point in time. Some of you maybe even have sent a similar embarrassing email or been "caught" in a situation like me. In regards to my comment, I said nothing about her character or academic performance, just didn't choose my words very carefully. For this reason, I do not feel bad about what I said and I would never insult a student in that way! Above all, I knew that I had already jumped through more hoops for this student that I would for most others as she had a very complicated order of transferring from out-of-state, having courses in progress, while I'm also dealing with changing entrance "rules" here and trying to get her enrolled in online classes. My main value in this job, as in every other job I do, is making sure I do the right thing, abide by the rules, and creatively solve problems when necessary. I consider myself a decent, dedicated advisor while also realizing that I won't like every student and every student won't like me. In the face of that, I will continue to give my best effort to each and every student's academic success regardless of personal feelings about that student. 
As a young professional, did you make any such mistakes? How did you handle the situation?

Thanks for reading,
Jenna the Human

Monday, May 20, 2013

What would you tell your freshman self?

Hello, readers!
I decided to start this blog for a couple of reasons. The first is that I believe writing to be a useful means of therapy. I find that when I want to get something out, it is much easier for my brain to get it out on paper than through speech. The second is that I hope to utilize this blog about advising to network with other people who share my passion for student success.

I'd like to start my first blog with the overdone, cliche, "What I wish I had known when I was a freshman" post. My youngest cousin is graduating from high school tomorrow and she will be beginning her academic journey in the fall. When thinking about what I could buy her as a gift, I started thinking about what I would have wanted when I was a freshman. The thing that stuck out most in my mind was: I would have wanted advice. So, I would like to share my very personal list of what I wish someone would have told me in those first weeks of the beginning of college.
1. It's okay to miss home.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a homebody. I don't have a very good memory, but I can remember distinctly the day my parents dropped me off at college. It was a whirlwind, but in hindsight, that was probably a good thing. We moved my things into my apartment (see 2.), slept for one night and the very next day I left for Fish Camp (see 3.) I didn't have time to realize just how much my life was changing. I was so busy the first couple weeks of living in College Station, but then it caught up to me. After the first round of tests (see 4.), I remember being so overwhelmed and tired that I just went in my room and cried for a long time. I though I was a freak for missing my mommy. I thought I was the only person in the world that would rather go visit home on a Friday night than get dressed in uncomfortable clothes, walk around in uncomfortable shoes, dance with strangers, and come home smelling like a bar. I thought I was going to be crippled for life and never be an independent grown-up. Looking back now, I realize that it's okay to miss home. When you're blessed with a wonderful family life like I was, you're going to go through an adjustment period and you're going to miss the comforts you grew up with. This is not true for everyone, but it was true for me. I wasn't used to buying my own groceries, cooking my own meals, or even getting the oil changed in my car. So, that first night that you feel like crying - don't hold back. Get those tears out, cry, yell, laugh, scream, call home, hug your teddy bear, do whatever you need to do. It's okay to miss home.
2. Create a space.
I believe that the energy of a space has a major effect on your mood, attitude, productivity, and overall well-being. Whether you live in a dorm, apartment, condo, house, whatever, make your space your own wonderful "homey" space to sleep, to study, to hang out, to think, to host parties, to do whatever it is that makes you happy. Get a comfy pillow, a candle that smells amazing, hang up pictures that make you happy. Make it somewhere you *want* to be.
I didn't do this very well my first semester. To be honest, I didn't do this very well at all in college. Don't get me wrong, there are a few people whom I keep in contact with that I am certain will be life-long friends. I could conjure up a list of things I wish I had done or hadn't done, but my biggest regret about my non-academic college life was that I don't think I had enough FUN. I was way too wrapped up in trying to find a husband. Why? Because somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that I needed to be engaged when I finished college. This was an idiotic idea, and even now I can't pinpoint where it came from, but I wish to impart my wisdom onto every female entering college. Don't commit yourself to a relationship too early. Don't limit yourself to fulfilling anyone's dreams other than your own. I wish I would have gone on more dates, joined more clubs, gone to more sporting events, done more of what made ME happy. So, as a freshman and for the entirety of your college career, HAVE FUN.
4. Learn.
This is a hard one for me to write because it exposes my flaws. I'm going to be extremely vulnerable with you, readers. I'm not as smart as everyone thinks I am. I'm just good at school. I do very well under academic pressure. I'm great with regurgitating information. I'm good at anticipating how a professor is going to test me and then conforming to that challenge. However, I wish I would have realized earlier how important learning is. It is much more important than performing. Making all A's, but not being able to tell anyone what you learned in your undergraduate degree, is performing. Carrying a C-average but being able to apply knowledge to real-world situation to solve problems, is learning. Please, please, please, I beg of you, learn all that you can. It will pay off, I can promise you that.
There are many more things than these that I try to tell my freshmen during advising sessions, but these are the few personal nuggets that I often reflect on. Readers, I invite you to share what you wish you would have known as a freshman, or if you're in those precious transition months of beginning your college career, ask the burning questions in your heart about making the best of your freshman year.