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Advisor of the month: October 2017

Susan Stinson, Advisor of the Month for October, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech

Susan Stinson

Communication, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
While I also teach in the traditional classroom setting (the CommSkills courses), the work I do as an advisor affords me the opportunity to better get to know my students as people: those who have their own struggles, goals, and dreams. I love having days at work where I can sit down with students and point them to resources on and off campus that they simply did not know existed, or if they knew the resources were there, the students thought those things were for some other person, not them. I love facilitating that discovery.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
VT academic advisors have been faced with an ever-growing, ever-changing, and, seemingly, ever-politically charged set of ideas about what best practices are when it comes to getting students to commit to a major. I believe that my role as an advisor is to meet each of my students where he or she happens to be in the education process--in that student's process of life-shaping. It is not for me to say which major the student should stay in or to which major that student should transfer, and I think that the way I have contributed most to advising in the Department of Communication is by listening to each student and providing that student with the tools needed to make self-directed choices. One of the ways I do this is by having my transfer students write self-directed learning proposals in which they discuss their integrated learning--the curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities in which they've been engaged--and how they plan to use their experiences here at Tech to create and live the lives they want to live--not just now but five, ten, twenty years down the road.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
The advice I would give to other professionals who want to make a difference in the life of their students would be to be present and mindful with each student you encounter and each time you encounter that student. It's all too easy for us to get into a routine and to "see it coming a mile away" when it comes to engagement with our students. But. I get the absolute best results with and for my students when I am mindful that while this might be my my thirteenth year in academia, this is (ususally ;O) the student's first time through the undergraduate process, and I'm here for them, to see them through on their terms. That mindset really enables us, as advisors, to hear our students.