A couple of weeks ago we had three TV stations on campus reporting on our enrollment, the room we have at Fresno Pacific University for students, financial aid avialablility, and our new four year graduation guarantee. (You can see one of the reports at http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/video?id=6919536 .) While we were waiting, as the room full of students pooring over schedules was being filmed, the reporter asked me who was advising the students. I answered that we were watching some of our natural science and math faculty members work with the new students–all freshmen–as they began their university careers.
It was the second question that amused me a bit–‘the faculty advises the students?’ And after thinking about it, for many schools, especially large ones, it would seem odd that a faculty member would take time to advise a beginning student. Or at least, if not odd, not usual in these days. The question gave me a minute to explain how important it is for faculty to take this time with students. For me and for the faculty at FPU, this is one of the building blocks for student success.
Advising gives us an opportunity to help get students started right, to check on how they are doing as they proceed through their studies, to “mentor” or guide them into their chose professions or vocations, to help prepare them for graduate schools, and to be available when they want to talk or have questions. Their questions might be academic, or personal, or spiritual. If we can’t help personally, we can get them in contact with someone who can. We call it mentoring–active guiding–rather than advising. And it is something we as a faculty at FPU take pride in–whether in the traditional undergraduate, degree completion or graduate programs.
At our three registration days this summer for new traditional undergraduate students we had as advisors chairs of departments, a couple of deans, faculty members known for creative teaching, a chaired professor (I am not using their names becuase I did not get their permission to do so), those who took time away from family and from research they are doing, from all of the universities schools, and most of the departments. They even let me help out.
Just today a former student, a former “mentee” stopped by, one who I had helped mentor. He’s now completing his doctorate, and on a brief leave from teaching in Africa. We have become friends in the fifteen years since he graduated with his BA. We caught up on family stuff, the pains of doctoral committees, and future professional plans. This is what can happen when faculty and students work together–in the classroom, in research, in “advising,” and as students continue in adult life and their professions. It can be rich for both–it has been for me.