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Advisor of the month: August 2020

Brenda Husser, August 2020, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

Brenda Husser

Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I most enjoy the opportunity to get to work with students and watch how they develop and grow over the years while at Virginia Tech. It is exciting to sit down with a student to develop a four year plan and watch them as they suddenly realize they can do so much more with their education while here. I enjoy sharing with them the opportunity they have to add additional majors/minors, as well as, all the resources that are available to them. In addition, I truly enjoy the relationships I have with our students. They are not just students; they become extended family, and many remain in contact even after they have graduated and moved on. It is gratifying to know that I am making a difference in the lives of our students and their higher education experience.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
In 2001 when the new department chair joined Virginia Tech, the first question asked of me was, "What do you see the department needs?" At the time, we had cohort advising and I was the lead administrative assistant. I responded with a need for a full-time academic advisor that can meet students on their terms and not during a faculty member's office hours. It isn't fair to the student to have to miss a class to talk to an advisor. I was then asked if I was willing to do advising for that next semester. I was, although I had not done any advising of students at that time, but was willing to give it an honest try.  As I thought would happen, I fell in love with that additional task. I have not developed any great programs or initiatives, but because I have a genuine compassion for students, my contribution has been getting to know the students as individuals and making them feel comfortable to come in for advising meetings, whether it is for the upcoming semester or to discuss real life issues. I continue to have an open door policy to enable students who have a quick question to feel comfortable to drop in.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Listen to understand the students and hear what they say.  Often times, that can be difficult when we have so many other things going on, but we need to practice listening not only with our ears but also with our eyes. At times, the real conversation comes through the non-verbal actions, thus, we need to probe and ask questions to determine the real need of the student. When meeting, make the student your number one priority and clear your head of distractions. Let the students see you are present in that conversation. Be genuine, honest, and trusting. Make them feel they are not just a number. Get to know the student not only on an academic level, but also on a personal level. Doing so, allows the student to gain trust with you and will be more likely to open up should the need arise. Lastly, be respectful.