One of the ways that I multi-task is to listen to podcasts while I do paperwork. The easy but menial tasks of change of major forms, curriculum modifications, and the like are made more enjoyable while listening to Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast on Spotify. She interviews amazing researchers and authors. Her February 15, 2021, podcast features Adam Grant, author of Think Again. In the conversation, they talk about thinking like a scientist. As an academic advisor who has a master’s degree in Biological Sciences, this gets my neurons firing at rapid pace. Instant connection, “Yeah, this is me!” Then they hit the academic advisor in the heart, they talk about majoring in curiosity. I nearly jumped out of my chair. Yes! Important questions of “what do want to learn more about?, how can you be prepared to navigate a changing world and comfortable with the uncomfortable?” These are the questions that are so important in our work.
During the first week of this semester, a nursing student in her last semester in the program came to me during open advising. I saw the notes, scanned her files and prepared for a conversation I’ve had with about a handful of graduating seniors who come to the realization that the path they are on it not what they want. Before I even asked how she was or how things were going, I told her she isn’t the first to be here and that I’m here to listen and guide her on her options. She sighed. Her voice was fast and shaky. I told her that tears are common in my office and that it is totally fine to cry. They flowed. After a moment, she started to talk. She admitted the commonality of all students that reach this point, they didn’t really explore or examine why they are here. Like so many, this was practical and paid well, but didn’t feel authentic. I told her how proud I was that she was willing to seek help and be vulnerable with me. We acknowledged the courage it took to even talk with me about it. As I listened, I recognized that her passion areas aligned perfectly with our Sociology Major. I chatted her the link to the website, a wonderful one-stop place for students by a department keenly focused on attracting and retaining students. We talked about hurdles she might encounter, how this adds one year to her four-year plan, and questions she may have to answer with her family. We agreed to chat the next morning after she looked at this and half a dozen other majors that also matched her interest. She was calm and hopeful at the end of our time together. The next day, she was back. She was radiant. She had emailed me prior, and I could tell that we were headed in the right direction. After wonderful conversations with the department chair and her parents, she made the decision to pivot to a BS in Sociology. She thanked me. I told her that I had spent time yesterday morning working before our chat working on a video for pre-nursing students on exploration of the career field. She told me to tell her story, that curiosity and exploration were important and necessary. I told her that I am glad that she was finally ready to explore and be authentic. As an appreciative advisor, she reminded me how important the “don’t settle” phase is. Don’t settle requires a great amount of trust and courage for students in themselves and in those who advise them. When we remember to help students think like scientists, questioning why, we build trust that helps us ask the tough questions when the time comes to challenge them.
As you gear up for new student advising and orientation this summer, how will you help your new students frame their first year as a year of curiosity? How will you help them, when they have made informed decisions, to keep their curiosity? How will you create relationships that allow students to vulnerable and courageous?
Wishing you a curious and courageous registration and orientation season.