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Advisor of the month: December 2017

Helene Goetz, Advisor of the Month for December. Advising Matters at Virginia Tech

Helene Goetz

University Studies


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I enjoy the “aha!” moments of my students, the moments when they find their voice, when they find their passions. Each class of incoming students brings its own challenges and rewards, but there is a common thread that applies to all students, whether international or domestic: guiding them in discovering their personal attributes and aptitudes and helping them to find a major that truly interests them. For many, this may not be the major they expected to decide upon, and with these students in particular there is the “aha!” moment when they discover a major and career path that fills them with enthusiasm. While it is gratifying to guide a student through academic planning for their expected major, there is a special enjoyment when advising inspires a student to new self-discovery and fills them with excitement for new directions they had not previously considered.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
I have worked in the University Studies unit since its inception in 1989 and have worn many hats since that time. I have worked with special populations of exploratory students ranging from student athletes to international students, with the latter being the bulk of my advising roster at present. I have worked as the liaison for numerous departments and programs, but primarily the Pamplin College of Business. For several years, my responsibilities included writing a monthly electronic newsletter for parents to keep them informed of what their students were experiencing in their transition to Virginia Tech and how they could assist. For the past 7 years, I have been the advisor for University Studies International students in particular, addressing the unique challenges or this specific student population. I have adapted my advising style to address the differences in the educational cult! ure that they encounter, requiring a different focus on learning styles and communication. In addition, I have been the Coordinator of Assessment and Academic Advising for the past four years and have worked with the advisors in our unit to develop assessment tools and to evaluate advising outcomes for the unit.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
My best advice would be to listen and observe! Each student is unique, and the advising styles and techniques that are effective with one student may not be effective in reaching another student. Finding the right approach to take with a particular student may take more time, but that discovery may be the key to connecting them with a future path to a successful academic career and beyond.