Professor, Academic Adviser, Personal Counselor

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since coming to Lincoln has been the added task of advising students.

Many large universities have full-time advisers available within departments while others have advisers who stick with a student for the duration of their college careers.

Not so at Lincoln, where the professor is also adviser.

When I started here, the chair of my department told me I should begin preparing for spring advising. My first response was, “Huh?” I had never been exposed to a system where professors were tasked with registering students for their courses.

At Lincoln, where many important forms are still filled out by hand and where students often get lost in a somewhat archaic registration system, faculty serve as important lifelines. If we’re not familiar with a student’s progress, he/she could attend Lincoln for four years and find out that not all graduation requirements have been fulfilled.

This week I’ve been meeting with students, looking over their transcripts, suggesting what courses fit them and making sure they are ready to take them. But advising also has important emotional aspect that bonds the faculty member and the student. Many of us become vested in our advisees’ success.

When students have come into my office, some carry more than just an academic burden, often dealing with issues that go outside of the classroom and — in most cases — beyond my realm of expertise.

Still, as an educator, I’m compelled to make sure that I provide my students with as much support as possible. Often times, I’ve just sat back and listened as they discuss their problems — some are self-inflicted, others are not.

While dealing with my students’ nonclass issues can be emotionally draining, I do feel that many of them will be more motivated to do well in my classes. It’s already happening in some cases; in others, I think students are wondering if I will be around long enough to see them develop. Given Lincoln’s recent history of faculty comings and goings, I can understand their skepticism.

The advising period for registration will be over in November then I can get back to focusing on the daily grind. However, something tells me that a few of my advisees will be regular visitors during my office hours. In those cases, I’ll have my ears ready.


 

Dr. Murali Balaji is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Mass Communications at Lincoln University.