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Q&A: What do advisers do for students, anyway?

Advisers guide students to the right path to graduation. | Billion Tekleab/The Cougar

Advisers from colleges all over campus recognize UH students hold many misconceptions about the function of advising appointments.

On average, UH advisers see 40 students per week. Priority enrollment for Spring 2019 begins Nov. 2, and students are now rushing to set up an appointment with their respective advisers.

The Cougar had a chance to sit down with advisers from across the University, including:

Kenneth Garcia from the Cullen College of Engineering; Greg Spillers from the Biomedical Engineering department of the Cullen College of Engineering; Kaitlyn Dempsey from the College of Education; Colleen Davies from business advising in the Honors College; Fallon Jones from the Engineering Technology department of the College of Technology; Amanda Brown from the Information and Logistics Technology department of the College of Technology; and Michelle Nodskov from the Biology and Biochemistry department of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

The Cougar: What do the students you advise struggle with the most?

Garcia: Each major has their own critical semester, and in chemical engineering it’s known as the big three, and in petroleum engineering it’s known as the big five. Those are classes, which are in the same semester, and they are the hardest variety of classes that they will take.

Davies: There’s this STAT 3331 class. It’s a quantitative course that requires a lot of Excel skills and requires that you touch the material every day, and that is an adjustment for a lot of people. Some people consider themselves naturally good at math, and it’s not a logic that comes naturally.

Whenever a student has to take this class, I spend a lot of time getting them familiar with what it’s going to take.

TC: What is the purpose of your job as an adviser?

Dr. Spillers: I see my job being more professional development and getting them not just to graduation but to what they want to do after graduation. If they want to go to medical school, we’re going to talk about the classes they need to get into medical school.

I also want to talk to them about the rest of their application, when they should be working on that application and when they should be taking the MCAT if they want to go to graduate school.

Nodskov: Part of my job is saying, ‘Hey, I’m here for you, too.’ I’ve had students who are upset with how specific classes are going, so I tell them about tutoring, or maybe just let them know I understand, ‘I was a student like you.’

Sometimes you just need somebody to say, ‘You know what? It’s gonna be okay. You can go home and eat some chocolate and finish your homework. That’s okay, too.’

TC: What should students be prepared to answer at their advising appointments?

Davies: One, what’s the ultimate goal? I’m a business advisor, so they are working towards some kind of business degree, but what does that mean? Can you picture a company that you’d like to work for? Can you picture an industry that you are interested in?

If your dream goal is to be a buyer for Macy’s, let’s work backwards and figure out what are different things you can do to be successful in finding what that goal is.

TC: What do you think increases the likelihood of a student succeeding?

Davies: The students who are most successful are utilizing networking opportunities, not just using the classes to decide if they like the major. I think what gets difficult for some students is when they finally get into their major coursework and find that they don’t really like it.

If you can take those opportunities to expose yourself to stuff, it will help confirm what you like and don’t like.

TC: If you could have students ask you one question that you would answer and never be asked again, what would it be?

Dempsey: I would probably tell them that whenever they search for our CUIN and LED education courses, they’re all hidden. So, don’t freak out whenever you don’t see them because they are specific to our students, and we don’t want students outside of the major trying to take the courses that are required for the students farther along in our program.

If they need one of those courses, they just need to reach out to an adviser and we will help them out. 

Jones: How do you see an adviser? What are your advising hours? How do I look for courses I am trying to enroll in? A lot of this can be found online.

TC: Do you think tools like Rate My Professor are useful for students? Are there any disadvantages?

Nodskov: I think that some students use Rate My Professor as law, and they’ll be like, ‘I want to take this class with this specific professor.’ And they’ll wait. If the class opens up and fills and they can’t get into it, they’ll wait till the next semester to take it, even though there’s four other sections taught by others professors.

And I’ve seen students kind of get into trouble that way.

TC: If you could say one thing to your students to help them better understand the purpose of advising, what would it be?

Jones: We are paid to come out and help you, but we won’t know if you don’t tell us. We have a wealth of information that every student can benefit from, but we don’t know what you need unless you tell us.

Brown: Come once a semester, even if you come for 10 to 15 minutes. We can talk about classes and make sure you are on track. That’s the best way we can get you in and out without any hassle.

Davies: We’re experts within our field. We stay up to date with the policies of the college, the policies of our individual majors. Things are always changing on a college campus. They change rules all the time. Your advisor is there to assist you in figuring out how it applies to you and to make sure you have a stress-free college experience.

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