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Advisor of the month: August 2021

Linda Vick, July 2021, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

Maggie Johnson

Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I enjoy seeing my students pursue what is meaningful to them, both in the context of their education and in their personal lives, too. They are gifted this window in their lives where they can explore their identity, their interests, their passions. It’s really fulfilling to have a conversation with a student that starts out about course selection or registration – or any other those other logistical topics that we cover as advisors on a daily basis – and then have it shift to the student’s goals for getting an internship in their desired field, or starting a new student organization, or finding a service project.  In this way, I really value getting to know more about each of my students. I’m happy that in my role as their advisor, I can support the logistical components associated with earning a degree and they can focus more on learning more about who they are along the way. I am really impressed they are pursuing a degree in engineering but seeing how a student grows into their fullest sense of self over their four years here impresses me even more! 

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
I’m really proud to be on the undergraduate advising team in my department, where we serve ~630 students. We work with students starting in their sophomore year and see them through graduation. I rely on the expertise of my colleagues in the department and around the College and university on a regular basis to help me develop my skills as a new advisor. In addition to my regular academic advising duties, I am also the advisor for the ISE Ambassadors, which is a group of 28 students who act in service to the department. This group primarily focuses on recruitment to the undergraduate program, but they also lead other efforts to support their peers. For example, the ISE Ambassadors will host events for the ISE student body, such as a Q+A panel with the department’s advisory board, coffee and conversations with faculty members, and focus groups that solicit student feedback on the undergraduate curriculum. Additionally, these students use their engineering skillset to support the wider Virginia Tech community in different ways, including through an ongoing project with Campus Kitchen, and doing demonstrations of manufacturing facilities using Legos for elementary school students. 

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Being a consistent and accurate source of information for students is an enormous part of an advisor’s job, but in truth, it can be tiring at times. When your reserves are depleted, it can feel like you want to log off of email and never return because your inbox is filled with the same questions you answer time and time again. So, my little piece of advice for us is to remember that the everyday tasks we do as advisors matter to our students as much as the big gestures and efforts do. Certainly, when we help students develop the ability to do self-guided research to find the answers to their questions or identify effective resources to help solve a problem on their own, we are helping them create lifelong skills. But I also remind myself that navigating such a massive bureaucratic entity would be intimidating to anyone, and as advisors we happen to have just enough inside knowledge to help.  Remember, over time your small interactions add up and you’ve helped this student reach a huge milestone – graduation!