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Advisor of the month: April 2021

Gary Kinder, April 2021, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

Gary Kinder

Building Construction, College of Architecture and Urban Studies

What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
Having the opportunity to interact with some of the hardest-working, most well-grounded, energetic young people our university community.  Having seen a broad spectrum of students, over my almost-30 years of experience in Higher Education, I can honestly say, that working the fine young people in BC is the most rewarding time in my career. I enjoy the role of being a confidant, and advocate, a quasi-parental role, a listening ear and a caring heart for our folks. The academic part of the job is only one aspect. I truly enjoy the time when I am engaged with my students, about all the other aspects of their lives -- their families, their struggles, their issues outside of school, and their joys with seeing their growth and their opportunities for employment and service. To say I enjoy it, is an understatement. It is truly heart-warming for me, to know that our interactions and time in the program together, is life-changing and completely valuable to them, as well. Their growth and personal development, while in our major, is reward in and of itself -- to see their transformations is really something else to behold...and for me, the joy in seeing that growth, is part of why I know I am in the right place in my profession ~ 

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
I have contributed a legacy of thousands of students, over the 28 years I've worked in service of education. In this particular department, for the past three years, I can honestly say that my contribution is the legacy of over 500 graduates, all of whom I know well, and continue to keep contact with, even after graduation, is my greatest contribution -  The legacy of those countless numbers of alumni and current students, whom I'm humbled to know have landed in their professional roles, somewhat in a small part, to my advising both academically and career preparation advising, is, I humbly believe, a significant contribution, to our department and our students.

When people aske me if my partner, Jim and I, have kids?  I say quiet enthusiastically, "YES - over 500 " ~  I truly think of them as my extended family, and treat them as such, with honestly, forthrightness and frankness, and constructive and supportive advice, each and every time we interact.

Additionally, to speak more directly to more tangible contributions, I have served the entire time in my role, on three curriculum committees (BC, CEM and CAUS), overseen the BC Ambassador program, coordinated our MLSOC school annual scholarship application review process, facilitated countless prospective family recruiting sessions along with all the BC Open House sessions both Fall and Spring semesters, and served as an instructor for BC First Year Experience course, among the other more rudimentary portions of my position.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Listen to your students and truly hear what they're telling you -- so often is the case, that if advisors simply follow "the script" and stick to the academic path conversations, they do their students a disservice of not "meeting them where they are", as we say in the counseling training program realm. To be able to best serve and help a student, an advisor, to make a difference in their life, must be willing to learn and understand the "context" of each individual student and their unique circumstances and "back story".  To make a difference in their lives, we also, as advisors, have to be willing to have open, honest, sometimes frank and direct conversations with them. The highest compliment I have ever received from a student, who as a former advisee of mine, once told me, after a long and soul-searching honest conversation, he said, "You know, you're the first person in my life, that's ever really talked to me like that and told me what I really needed to hear.... Thank You, for that ! " That has stayed with me all the years I have worked in education, and I use it as a motto to follow, as I approach every day.