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Advisor of the month: February 2020

Carrie Hopkins, February 2020, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

Carrie Hopkins

Academy of Integrated Science, College of Science


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I am constantly amazed at how much I learn from my advisees! I deeply care for them and feel that I want to offer them the very best I can in way of academic counsel, but also encouragement and bright hope for their future. Students can follow a checksheet and for the most part, self-advise when it comes to the courses they should take next. As advisors, we offer a more nuanced approach and can certainly point out a balanced way for our advisees to go through their academic career. Advising is much more than that for me. I look forward to our incoming first year students finding their way at VT, not only in their classes, but also in their experience of independence and developing self-awareness. When they come across something (whether in a class or an extracurricular experience) and they begin to see a pattern of interest or passion is awakened, I enjoy seeing it bloom into enthusiasm, purpose and direction. As I see them progress through to graduation, my heart is often overwhelmed with hope for their future.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
Most of our students say when they tell their friends or family they are in the Computational Modeling and Data Analytics major, the response is "What is that?" This is my first year developing and helping teach an FYE course and I have worked closely with our CMDA faculty and curriculum committee to design a meaningful class that introduces our incoming first year students to the major. Our objective in this course is to, not only learn the wonderful VT resources available to them, but to truly understand the field they are entering. We have designed the course in such a way that when they go home for Thanksgiving Break in November, they will be equipped to describe CMDA to anyone who asks! This is a fast growing major and as advisors, we are having to respond with agility in handling the large numbers coming our way, not only incoming first year students, but also internal transfers. We have developed into a very cohesive team within the Academy of Integrated Science and are very intentional in the level of support we offer to our students. I am honored to be part of such a great group!

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Continue to care. Sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed when we are faced with high pressure seasons of the semester (orientation, course request, etc...). When we are overwhelmed we are tempted to operate on auto pilot and not pay close attention to the students across from us at our desk, or even worse, to become cynical or possibly judgmental. I think practicing self-care and recognizing our own needs during these times is key to preserving our original love of advising. We are human and so are those who rely on us for help. Take good care of yourself and set up boundaries that protect you from overwork and cynicism. After all, we can only give our best to our students when we are graceful with ourselves.