Advising Part Two

by Tolu Taiwo

I don’t know how I missed this. Maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the fact that I have a lot of my plate so the days are flying by, maybe it’s excitement for my summer practicum. Regardless, one of my cohort members had to keep me up to speed, and gave me a well-known but often forgettable piece of information: we’re almost halfway done with our SAHE program.

Scary. But true. I’m 265 days into my #SAGrad journey. It is April. Which means that we have about six weeks of school. Which means that we’re so close to being halfway done.


I am a different person than the girl who stepped into Fort Collins, all wide-eyed and nervous about the future. I’ve learned so much, and still have a ton to learn. One of these lessons was, and is, how to be a functional advisor. Thanks to my awesome, difficult, challenging, and rewarding RHA/NRHH cabinet board members I’ve experienced a lot when it comes to advising. And since I am currently writing about my advising experiences for my portfolio, I only thought it fitting to relay all I learned during my first year to all you SAFY readers. 

Student Development Theory is EVERYWHERE: I considered myself as into theory as the next SAHE-nerd, but I definitely did not expect to actually actively use the theories all day, every day. However, I found that all of my students fit somewhere on various theories. For example, it’s been super-interesting to see all of my advisees go through Baxter Magolda’s Self-Authorship theory. It’s also been an interesting trying to figure out the best way to push them towards the internal foundation stage. I’m beginning to realize that not all students develop in the same way, and some need an extra push than others. And that all students need at least a nudge. Even my superstar of an advisee isn’t always perfect, and I need to come up with ways to challenge all of them.

Everyone’s Advising Rules Looks Different: During a class session, one of my cohort mates pointed out that they would never friend their supervisees on Facebook. Another one stated that they have a rule against riding in cars with their students. As someone who is friends with their advisees on every kind of social media site available, and someone who has been in a car with literally every single person on cabinet, I definitely thought I was doing something wrong. After a while, though, I got over it, and decided to advise in the best way for me. Obviously, there are some serious ground rules that all advisors should follow (basically, abide by the “do not harm” clause given to us by the CAS Standards), not every advisor is going to relate to their advisees in the same manner. The key is to figure out what is comfortable for you, your supervisor, and your students. So, yes. My co-advisor/supervisor and I joke around with our students, listen to their relationship problems, and attend their drag shows. We also keep them in check, make sure they’re doing what they need to do, and helping them develop as students. We keep it real, we play hard, we get the job done, and it works.

Sometimes, You Gotta Play Bad Cop: Let’s be real: on the spectrum of challenge and support, I am so far into the support section that I may as well be the bottom spotter of a cheerleading pyramid. (I spent about ten minutes researching the proper cheerleading terminology for this joke, so I hope this is correct…) One of the constant feedbacks my supervisor give me is that I need to get tough. I have an innate need to be liked by everyone, but sometimes as an advisor, you need to be the “bad cop.” There are times where students just need to hear the truth, and I’ve quickly picked up that failure to call a student out is failure to help a student grow. It’s something that I’m still learning how to do, and something that I hope to be better at as the next year goes by.

Self Care is Actually Pretty Important: This is a mantra that is shoved into our heads as student affairs professions. It is, however, pretty true when you work with students. My best times have been when I’ve been awake, alert, and present in an advising sessions. But this only happens when I’ve gotten an adequate amount of sleep and when I’ve been taking care of myself so I’m at an emotionally-stable 8 or higher. And I’ve found that occasionally, it’s sometimes okay to reschedule a one-on-one when you know you’re absolutely not at your best. I once tried to advise one of my students immediately after my ex broke up with me. Mistakes. The one-on-one was great in the sense that we ended up getting cupcakes; it was awful in the sense that I was kind of a mess, and couldn’t be in top-notch-advisor mode. Lesson learned: I need to get my house in order before I can tell me students how to construct theirs.

Obviously, I am still a newbie that this student affairs phenomenon we call “advising.” And being a seasoned advisor is long process, a practice that takes a long time to perfect (and really, no one is ever perfect, so. You know. We’re always exploring). The best we can do is learn from our mistakes and each other, so if any professionals or grads have any advice for me and for the community of advisors, make sure to tweet me or comment on the blog!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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1 comment :

  1. Love this! I feel the same way in my grad program. My advising style even varies based on the assistantship I hold, it's all about what works for you and I'm so happy you pointed that out! *PS, you were on the right track with "bottom spotter" in cheerleading - they do exist but I'd think of you more as a "base" because you're supporting everyone else on top of you (a spotter is just there in case people fall, a base is there to support everyone). I LOVE this analogy!


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