February 14th is a special holiday in my family. My father showed his love to the women in his life with flowers, chocolate and one of my favorite traditions, he grills a steak dinner for the family. It also happens to be my youngest brother’s birthday. I’m always reminded of the power of love during this holiday, especially as distance and a pandemic has necessitated Zoom connections instead of a hug and playing cards around a table. Perhaps you are feeling this love from the people in your life or even from your students. While I hope none of your students gave you an inappropriate Valentine, perhaps an advisee reached out to show their appreciation for what you do.

As an appreciative advisor, I personally love the discover and dream phase of advising, something that I often see first and second year students ready to engage in at this time of the year. While I love this process, I remind myself that they may struggle with it. So how do you show love for your students during a vulnerable process? Here’s a quick Valentine for you on how to let your appreciative advising love GROW.

Go slow and build rapport. As an advisor, you often hear and likely value rapport building with your advisees. Especially during the pandemic, rapport building is so important to care for the whole student. This is the crucial stage of disarming. It is also key to the next step.

Respond with questions that show your interest and curiosity. Be free from judgment. This can take practice to show to students that you are seeking to learn more about them, not judging their reactions or responses. Keep the questions positive and open-ended.

Open-minded discovery. Help the students breakdown myths and battle misinformation. How often have you had the question, yeah, but what can you do with that? I hear this nearly every time a liberal arts major is discussed. Our first-generation college students and many students from specific areas of our state, struggle to understand career and industry needs for liberal arts degrees and the role they play in our economy. Helping them connect with an open mind allows us to show love for our academic programs and their family concerns.

Well-designed or intentional Wandering. As advisees dream and discover, it is important to move them forward in the design phase. While not all who wander are lost, advisors here are guides in design and implementation. As guides and coaches, we help students continue to climb up the mountains and not settle when challenges or set backs arise. My mom often reminds me that I’m still climbing the mountain and that when things are particularly challenging, I’m climbing an uneven or rocky part. She assures me that an easier part is coming and that I have the strength and equipment to keep climbing.

This blog post is serendipitously tucked between Valentine’s Day and Random Acts of Kindness Day. I encourage each of you to help advising love grow through the appreciative advising process as you show care and warmth for your students during a cold stretch of winter in a long pandemic.

With Gratitude,

Mehgan Clark

President-Elect of WACADA