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Advisor of the month: April 2024

April Newcomer

College of Science

What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
Building connections with students is my favorite part of being an advisor. Seeing them grow and change throughout their academic journey is incredibly rewarding. From the moment they consider our program to the day they graduate, I’m there to guide and support them. This continuous involvement is something special about my position, and it makes my heart sparkle to be a significant part of their journeys. I genuinely love encouraging students to make the most of the many opportunities available to them and helping them navigate the complexities of the university system.

Being a student advocate is a responsibility I hold dear. My experience as a first-generation student was unnecessarily challenging and I live by the Ayesha Siddiqi quote, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” As an advisor, I not only focus on the intricacies of their academic journey but also stay well-informed about the wealth of resources beyond degree requirements. This knowledge allows me to recommend co-curricular activities that can profoundly shape a student's perspective and knowledge base. It's incredibly fulfilling to be able to provide insights that go beyond coursework and contribute to a holistic learning experience. Moreover, I cherish the privilege of being in a position to identify potential hurdles students might face in seeking these experiences and ensuring these opportunities are accessible to all. This dual perspective, encompassing both the finer details and the bigger picture, empowers me to support students comprehensively in their pursuit of academic and personal growth.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
In my capacity within the department, I've played a pivotal role in advancing advising practices during a period of dynamic growth and transformation. Serving on multiple internal committees, I've ensured that the perspectives of both current and prospective students are central in shaping our department's curricula and programs. This has involved spearheading initiatives to enhance communication, expand access to academic advising, and promote experiential opportunities like undergraduate research and our semester abroad program in Switzerland. Since my arrival, I've been instrumental in guiding our department towards a professional academic advising model, grounded in research-based practices and scholarship in the field. This shift has allowed us to adopt a more holistic, developmental approach to advising GEOS students. Leveraging a variety of technologies, I've worked to implement best practices in advising, recruitment, and enrollment management, resulting in a more streamlined and effective approach. Collaborating closely with my department colleagues, this approach has contributed to the GEOS undergraduate enrollment doubling, while significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to complete the degree.

By integrating student development theory with established advising frameworks and leveraging innovative technology, I've forged a path toward data-informed decision-making in my advising practice. This culminated in the creation of the Geosciences Integrated Advising and Enrollment Management System (GIAEMS). This system utilizes Navigate campaigns and Google Workspace tools to systematically plan departmental offerings and co-curricular opportunities based on the expressed needs and desires of our students. In advising appointments, I've been able to delve into the details of career development and experiential learning, effectively linking students with our department's undergraduate research initiatives and semester abroad program. This approach has not only allowed me to provide more personalized guidance but also generated a valuable stream of common concerns that we address in our weekly GEOS Tuesday presentations.

I deeply value the relationships I've formed with colleagues across the department, college, and university. Being part of a dedicated team, united in our shared goal of enhancing the student experience, is deeply rewarding. It's heartening to work alongside individuals who are equally committed to making tangible improvements in the experiences of our students.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Listening is paramount. It's not just about hearing the words, but also picking up on what might be left unsaid. Identify areas where the system might be failing and take the initiative to make improvements. Don't be afraid to challenge established practices; if you see a need, seek out ways to enhance and innovate.

Recognize that advisors play a central role in connecting students with the broader institution. Stay updated on policy changes, procedures, and available resources. Cultivate relationships both within and beyond campus, acting as a bridge between students and the people and information they need to succeed. Continuously invest in your own learning and professional growth, demonstrating transparency and competence to your students.

Higher education can be demanding, and it's our role to encourage our students to advocate for themselves and make the most of the supportive university environment Never underestimate the impact of your words, and be mindful of the power you hold in your advising role. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. We need to be adaptable, tailoring our approach to each student's evolving needs. As advisors, we are instrumental in ensuring students feel a sense of belonging, comprehend their curriculum and resources, and ultimately thrive. By embodying these guiding principles, we can be confident that we're offering our best to every student, every day.