Time Crunch+Pride=Lessons Learned
The greatest challenge that I faced when I started my UESP internship was adjusting from one-hour conduct appointments to the 30 minute advising appointments. Having had two terms to reflect upon this challenge, I can safely say that I am slowly but surely getting better at managing the limited time I have with students in advising appointments, but it is still a struggle.
I attribute a large part of the challenge to the fact that so far I have only advised for four hours a week during the later part of the term and therefore am in many ways still learning the ins and outs of OSU’s academic and registration systems. While I try to re-read and refresh my memory on many of the facts that I learned during my initial training period and keep up on any new information that comes my way, I have still found myself stumped by several of the questions that my students ask me and having to say “I don’t know, but I can get back to you” has been one of the hardest things for me to do. This experience has helped me realize that I still have a lot of work to do on feeling confident enough in my own abilities to admit when I don’t know something. I still feel a loss of pride and self-confidence when I have to ask for help and I know that is something I will have to work on and improve upon in order to be a leader in student affairs.
Through my advising experience I have come to realize several things related to this personal struggle. First of all, when I don’t ask questions, when I put my pride before everything else I not only compromise my performance, but I compromise the quality of my students’ advising and for me that is simply unacceptable. I see this playing out in many other situations as well. If I am unwilling to ask questions in staff meetings or in the classroom, then I am denying my co-workers and classmates a different angle for seeing the issues we are discussing. Secondly, I have come to see the phrase “I don’t know” as a way to humanize the advising process, which can come across as mechanic and prescriptive at times. The students I advise need to know that I am not a computer, that I am not an expert on all things OSU; and that I can’t simply spout out the answers to all the questions they have. Which brings me to my last point (at least for now) surrounding this issue: saying “I don’t know, but I think we can find the answer if we look together” is a great way to empower students. I think that one of the most effective uses of my time during advising appointments is helping students learn to navigate the various information gathering tools available to them via the OSU website and publications. When a student has a question that I don’t know the answer to but I think can be found without taking up too much time, then we brainstorm and we look at different sites. We work together, the student driving the search for information that they need.
The balance between knowing enough information to keep an academic advising appointment at under 30 minutes and still find time to empower students and help them through the information gathering process will always be a struggle. Luckily I have developed an ability to see the silver lining, the teachable moment, in the struggle and that is a lens I hope to continuing developing.