Topic from September 2004

How do you know you're doing a good job of advising?

There has been a lot of discussion of and emphasis put on the assessment of “advising” in general, but how do you as an individual assess your own effectiveness as an academic adviser? What outcomes do you hope for in your advisees and how do you measure them? How do you know how successful you are? What's your opinion?

Your Responses

If one of your past advisees (maybe advisee 10 years ago) greets you and identifies him/herself as one of your advisees at a least expected place—maybe when visiting with a CEO of a company or mortgage officer of a bank or a medical doctor, in a distant part of the country, then you know that you have been doing a good job of advising your students. It happened to me several times, and it is a moment of truth and a very humbling experience.

-Dr. Jay Hettiarachchy, Ferris State University, September 2

First, when students actually come by to see me, I assume that is an indication of their recognition of my (good) advising. Second, when I sense that they are actually listening to me and paying attention to my advice—usually through their own questions, smiles, and “thank yous”—I feel great! Return visits, sometimes bringing their friends, and incidental hallway conversations also reinforce me, along with asking for letters of recommendation even if I've never had them in a class. These may sound trite and trivial, but that's what I think we're all about.

-Tom Grites, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, September 7

Several years ago, during a time when there were a couple of slash-and-burn-style administrators, I started what I call my “nice notes” file. It started as documentation but since those administrators are gone, that file has become a regular boost for my morale. Students often write e-mails and even handwritten thank-you notes for my help with their academic decisions. Parents sometimes write glowing accolades telling me that for the first time, their students have found direction and motivation in college. All of those notes go into that file. Another rather annoying “thank-you” is when a student makes an appointment to meet with me and rather than coming in to talk about the specific majors in which I advise, sits down and says, “I'm a major in______ department, not in your department, but my roommate met with you and said that you had helped her more than anyone she had ever talked with. Will you please help me?” How can I say no to that?

-Phyllis Mendenhall, Miami University, September 15

I agree with the others who have expressed their views. Any time students, and past students, go out of their way to express thanks it is most gratifying. Recently a letter from an advisee who graduated a year ago ended, “Keep helping change peoples' lives for the better.” What a satisfaction such acknowledgment of even the smallest amount of support and assistance brings! I usually tell them that I was but the cheerleader and they did the work!

-Carol Gilster, Saint Louis University, September 15

I know I'm doing a good job when students thank me. Students will send a postcard from a study abroad I helped them attain, or I'll hear from one student that others were talking about me as a great adviser. We also do anonymous electronic evaluations and the results are informative and helpful in assessing my own culture of advising.

-Kara E. Lattimer, Virginia Tech, September 16

As the College Evaluator for Hillyer College at the University of Hartford, my role is to maintain and audit the academic progress of the students within the program, among other duties; however, on occasion many of the students see me as an adviser. For example, when students come to my office they feel comfortable enough to sit with me to find out information related to selecting a major. Once they decide on a major, these particular students tend to stop by my office, in their junior year, to tell me how they are doing in their new program. This, for me, is a key indicator that I have helped them along their academic journey.

-Mya Bowen, University of Hartford, September 22

My goal is to help them become independent thinkers and to understand the importance of taking responsibility for both their actions and inactions. Naturally I feel very good when they show their appreciation, but the most rewarding times (only twice) is when both the former student and parent come by to thank me for “turning things around.” The other indication that I must be doing at least some thing right is the number of students who ask for my advice, even though I am not their advisor of record. This is especially gratifying given the fact that many students consider me to be the “hardest professor” on campus.

-Gary Giachino, Baker University, September 24

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