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Advisor of the month: October 2016

Robert Jacks, Advisor of the Month for October, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech

Robert Jacks

Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
I enjoy the satisfaction that comes from helping students as they take ownership of their academic planning and decision-making. I enjoy seeing students grow over time and treasure the personal connections I strive to make with my students.  What I enjoy the most however is seeing our graduates walk across the graduation stage and getting to know and work with students at such pivotal times in their lives. In advising I see our majors at new student orientation and years later I get to see how they have created their own path, earned their degree, and how I maybe have helped them make the decisions that got them there. Advising is very rewarding, and that's why I enjoy my role.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
In my role coordinating advising for the Department of English I have tried to modernize and make the advising office more accessible to students. I continue to create and add to a collection of advising videos for faculty so they can easily stay informed of the latest procedures and changes with regards to the curriculum. I've also created versions of the same videos for students so they too can access important information about their degrees from their computers, on their own time. I also implemented online office hours, so students can message me on certain days/times to ask advising questions online rather than having to cross campus in between classes to ask a simple question. I've found this very successful, especially for those too shy to speak up and ask questions in-person. Finally, I have contributed to advising in my department by creating communities that students can iden! tify with. I've found that these communities help students (especially freshman and transfer students) adjust to life at Virginia Tech and get to know what opportunities there are. I'll frequently hold meetings just for students in one of our majors, and we'll take a walk to the library together so they can physically see where those resources are (rather than just getting an email from me telling me what is available to me). I'll often work with student members of our English Club to organize tours for our first year students and to create a community that can help them and mentor them by showing them resources like the student success center and the writing center, which aren't on a typical university tour. I organize groups to walk together and attend guest author talks in our department and I feel like these communities we are creating are contributing to a rise in satisfaction of our undergraduate student population and helping to instill a sense of belonging. Finally, ! I've tried to create more faculty-student events in the department putting more faculty in front of our students outside of class. This too helps share the message that we all care about their success.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
I would tell others to explore ways in which they can create communities to bring about differences in the lives of their students. It isn't enough anymore to just forward a student an email about an opportunity. Organize a group of like-minded people who plan to take advantage of that same resource and then take it upon yourself to show those resources to students. You have to reach students on their level, and that takes work and time and may differ student to student, but when you do make that connection it is so incredibly rewarding. Always think outside the box about ways you can help your students, stay up on the latest advisor training and stay knowledgable about university policy changes and put student needs front and center.