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Advisor of the month: May 2017

David Lally, Advisor of the Month for May, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech

David Lally

Biochemistry, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I love interacting with the students! Every day, bright and purposeful young adults share their stories and dreams with me. I am continually amazed by what an impressive group of students we have and I’m deeply grateful that this is my work.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
Last year the Biochemistry Department switched from a system of faculty advising to one utilizing a full-time professional advisor, and I’m the first person to hold this position. I’ve tried to build on the department’s existing strengths of answering questions and providing relevant information by establishing a more “developmental advising” approach, which takes a more comprehensive view of the students’ educational, career, and personal growth. As part of this effort, I’ve implemented numerous student data collection efforts, so that our decisions can be better informed and easier to assess. I’ve also developed the Peer Mentor Program in order to establish a greater sense of community and promote belonging among Biochemistry undergraduates. The peer mentors are phenomenal at building student self-efficacy and help me to incorporate a more student-centered perspective int! o my decision making. They were instrumental in my efforts to integrate academic advising with the First Year Experience course I teach in the fall, Introduction to Biochemistry, which is a required course for all Biochemistry freshmen. I switched the class from a lecture format to a more active-learning approach in one of the SCALE-UP classrooms and I had a peer mentor at each table supporting the students during the group work portion of the class.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?

  1. Be as caring and authentic as possible. Get to know your students, listen to them, let them teach you, and always try to have their best interests in mind. Ultimately, your kindness and encouragement will be one of the most significant contributors of a student’s success.
  2. Be a learner. The past few decades have produced an enormous body of knowledge on teaching and learning and student development. All of the resulting theories and approaches are lenses at your disposal for gaining a deeper understanding of what you’re experiencing and to help you to make better decisions in your work.
  3. Practice good self-care. Advising can be a very demanding job that will fill every waking hour if you let it. You can’t help anyone if you let yourself get burnt out. Model for your students what it looks like to be passionate about your career, while still making time for sleeping, eating, exercise, and just plain down-time. Build relationships with other advisors, student deans, and all the other people that work together to support the students at Virginia Tech. We’re part of a community and we’re better together.