Being a good adviser to MU students means being a good listener, said Virginia Peterson, this year’s full-time staff Excellence in Advising award winner at MU. But Peterson also has something to say.
She always makes sure that freshmen understand college is not as structured as high school. She asks her students what they will do with all the blank space in their schedules. “They need to structure their time in a productive way for them,” she said.
Peterson advises 80 to 100 freshmen and transfer students in the biochemistry department of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and School of Medicine and also teaches in the biochemistry department. During Summer Welcome, the time when new students visit the MU campus, she helps incoming freshmen choose classes.
As director of student affairs for MU’s School of Health Professions, Ruth Crozier has a host of administrative duties. But she also sees between 100 and 200 students each year. Crozier is this year’s recipient of the professional adviser Excellence in Advising award.
Both awards are given by the Advisor’s Forum at MU, an organization of faculty and professional staff advisors, with support from the provost’s office.
Crozier works with students during early registration, the time when enrolled students are working on course schedules for the coming semester, and she sees them throughout the year, advising on a wide range of issues. She also meets with high school students when they visit MU. Many incoming freshman are still deciding what they want to study, and Crozier helps them work to prepare for college based on their interests.
For students who are undecided or changing majors, Crozier aids in their decision-making. “We make sure that students are aware that there are resources on campus that will help them make a decision and keep their options open,” she said.
During the fall semester, Peterson meets with each freshman to check in with him or her. Like Crozier, Peterson also meets with students interested in MU. Peterson describes her job as an advisor in three ways: She has to be a good listener; she tries to persuade students to take a balanced course load; and she helps students find their passion, even if that is not within her academic department.
Another piece of Peterson’s advice is simply for students to attend class.
For students who don’t know where to look or don’t know the questions to ask, Crozier helps by playing the role of a resource person.
Once the adviser-student relationship is established, Crozier’s job can be rewarding for both parties.
“My goal is to not tell students what to do, exactly which classes they should take or which major they should think about, but to be a resource and to be sort of the guidepost,” Crozier said.
Peterson enjoys talking to students. “Really, to advise freshmen effectively, you have to like 18-year-olds,” she said.
Crozier offers some advice for high school students preparing for college:
- Visit the college.
- Don’t base a decision strictly on a college’s reputation or its rank.
- Go and talk to faculty in the major you are interested in or an adviser in the school to get more information.
- Think about size and how much that matters. Do you want a college with a lot of resources and options or do you want a smaller environment?
“It’s really all about fit — knowing yourself and then knowing what’s going to match up with your strengths and your interests,” Crozier said.