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Advisor of the month: July 2020

April Newcomer, July 2020, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

April Newcomer

Department of Geosciences in the College of Science

What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
My favorite aspect of advising is building relationships with students. I truly enjoy getting to know each student and helping them through the process of developing a plan, working through the university system, and achieving their goals. This is the first advising position I’ve held in which I get to work with students for the duration of their time in school, from when they’re just considering our program until the time they graduate. I love watching students grow and change during this time and encouraging them to take advantage of the many available opportunities.

I also enjoy being a student advocate. Advisors serve a unique role; we not only see the details of the curriculum students need to complete, but we also have to stay informed about resources outside of the nuts-and-bolts of the degrees. We have the privilege to weave in recommendations about co-curricular activities that can be transformative to a student’s viewpoint and knowledge, in academics and in life. Advisors can see the big picture and the small details, giving us the perspective to identify the roadblocks students might encounter while seeking these experiences. We have the ability and the obligation to make these opportunities accessible to all of our students.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
Our department is in an exciting period of growth and change, and I serve on several internal committees facilitating these changes. I provide input on department curricula and programs to ensure that the perspective of students - both current and prospective - is taken into account. I have worked on a number of initiatives: improving communication, increasing access to academic advising, and promoting our experiential opportunities, such as undergraduate research and our study abroad program in Switzerland.

Since my arrival, my department has transitioned to a professional academic advising model. Using research-based practices and scholarship in the field,  I have collaborated with department administration to create a more holistic, developmental approach to advising GEOS students. I have also deployed a wide range of technologies to more efficiently and effectively pursue best practices in advising, recruitment, and enrollment management.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Every experienced advisor will say that we have to listen to our students, but it really is critical. We have to listen to what they say and what they don’t say. When something’s broken in the system, it’s our responsibility to figure out where the disconnect is and do our best to make it better. Don’t just do things the way they’ve always been done. If you notice a need, try to find ways to improve and innovate.

Be aware of what’s happening around you, even if you think it has nothing to do with advising. Everything in the higher education system can impact your advising. As the hub of the wheel, advisors are the connection between students and the rest of the institution. We all want our students to feel a sense of belonging, to take advantage of resources, and to thrive. We can make a huge difference in their lives just by being informed and sharing what we know.