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Advisor of the month: November 2019

Dana McGuire, November 2019, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

Dana McGuire

College of Natural Resources and Environment


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I enjoy almost every aspect of advising. I love that a big part of my job is building strong, trusting, and supportive relationships with my students. I am grateful to have the opportunity to watch students grow in confidence, academic success, self-understanding, and career awareness and readiness. I enjoy celebrating my students’ successes with them and helping them work through challenges. In fact, my favorite part of advising is working with students who are feeling a bit lost because they haven’t experienced a lot of academic success and/or they are considering a late-in-the-game major change. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing these students develop a sense of direction and clarity of purpose, and successfully execute a plan for moving forward. I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can help students learn to navigate the university, make the most of their time at VT, and prepare for their post-college lives.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
In 2018-19 I had an official advising load of 202 students in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials. During the past academic year, I met with 96% of my advisees at least one time and 64% three or more times. As part of the advising team, I have contributed to planning of our office’s email outreach and recruitment efforts, assisting with CNRE Ambassador training, the Majors Fair, and Hokie Focus.

I have also been fortunate to be able to take on several projects that have contributed to our Center’s efforts to support our students:

  • In the summer of 2018 I created a hybrid (Canvas and in-person) training program for the CNRE Orientation Assistants.
  • We decided to replace our new student meeting that we had always held the day before classes with an online continuing education program. I created the Canvas site, the 4 modules (voice over presentations), and quizzes for new students. The modules focused on advising in CNRE, important dates and deadlines, Virginia Tech resources, and how to become engaged on campus.
  • Our Director and I developed a new special study course this summer that we are teaching this semester. It is a first-year success seminar for students who are “Exploring Natural Resources” (undecided on CNRE major). It is a 1-credit course that focuses on academic success, major exploration, and community building (among other things).
  • I am a member of the campus-wide Transfer Week committee and I have led CNRE’s National Transfer Student Week planning. I initiated planning for what we will do as a college to celebrate our transfer students, I have worked with our college’s communications team to highlight our transfer students on social media and within college spaces, and I have researched and ordered swag for the college to offer students during Transfer Student Week.

I also picked up a few additional ongoing responsibilities at the beginning of this semester, as I am currently serving as the Advising Center's Interim Assistant Director:

  • Responsibility for advising technologies (Banner, Navigate). This includes coordination of all Navigate campaigns.
  • Assisting with our orientation efforts and planning. I will be attending the Orientation Implementation meetings for CNRE, helping to create our Visual Zen module, and recruiting, training and supervising our orientation assistants.
  • Responsibility for course evaluations, and study abroad evaluations and approvals.
  • Oversight and coordination of the college’s academic standing process.
  • Coordination and management of the early alert system

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
I have two pieces of advice for other people who want to make a difference in the lives of their students. 1) Don’t make assumptions about students and listen to what they have to say with an open heart. Sometimes it is the student who seems to have it all together (great grades, engaged with research, impressive co-ops) who feels the most unsure about their path. Taking time to connect with these students and asking them how they are feeling about things can help you see through the façade and help them gain the clarity and the sense of purpose they are seeking. 2) Never give up on your students, but always hold them accountable for their actions. It can be irritating to watch students make similar mistakes over and over, but instead of throwing your hands up in frustration, try to help the student understand why they continue their behaviors. For example, if a student tells me they aren’t going to class or doing school work because they are “lazy”, I challenge them on that. I tell them that I don’t believe people are actually lazy, but rather, they are not motivated to do certain things for various reasons. Then we have a conversation about why they aren’t feeling motivated in their class(es) and what they may be able to do to change their level of motivation.