Published on 2012/03/21

Strategies Of A Student Services Professional

Co-written with Sara P. Whitmer | Student Services Coordinator at MedTech College, Greenwood Campus

Strategies Of A Student Services Professional
Student services professionals need to make sure they are open to students’ wants and needs to make sure they have a successful educational journey. Photo by David Lofink.

As Student Services Advisors and Coordinators we all work with a very diverse group of people with unique personalities, thoughts, feelings and goals.  So how do we develop practices that cater to such diversity?  How can we be equally as effective with one student as another?  The answer can be found in utilizing the following strategies that apply almost universally:

Listen.

The best way to serve the student is to know the student and know them well; likewise with the administration/institution.   Almost everyone knows that active listening is one of if not the best tools we have in our arsenal to help or assist someone in resolving an issue.  One should not only listen to the student but also listen to the student’s instructors and peers – listen to conversations and remain privy/savvy to the student body and what they are saying about the institution, instructors and curriculum.

Watch and observe. 

Watch the student’s body language and the tell-tale signs they are engaged, disengaged, nervous, etc.  Be attentive to their needs and provide a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere during counseling or mentoring sessions.  When they come to you with an issue or need, be sure to work on it as soon as possible and keep them updated about the progress.

Do Your Research.

Always do your research; ask other Student Services Advisors/Coordinators what they are doing to go that extra step, the step beyond, into the extraordinary, for their students.  Read articles on best practices and again listen, watch and observe – getting to know your student is still the best research you can do.

Be a mentor.

First and foremost,  we think the best thing a Student Services/Affairs Advisor can be is a mentor.  Work with the students on a weekly to bi-weekly basis, talking about the issues they are facing and how to resolve them.  Find resources and sponsor workshops that teach them how to set goals, manage a budget and to be realistic about how long it may take for them to get back on their feet or what it is going to be like when they start their new career.  Go over what they have learned in those workshops and how to put that knowledge to work personally and professionally.

Be genuine.

Be genuine and actually care about the student.  Be real with your students, honest with them, and let them know you really do care and have their best interests at heart.  Too often I have heard students tell me it’s (not?) my job to care.  They don’t usually say that after we have met a time or two.  They are right in a sense – any good advisor is genuine in their goal to help, because they chose a field in education that matches their desire to solve problems and be a caring presence in the lives of students while in school.  As well, we found that when we have been open about our own experiences and hardships, students appreciate our transparency and feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and hardships, knowing they are not being judged. Therefore, we have found that this has helped many more reticent students begin to open up.  Those students remain in school, persevere through some tough times, and go on to graduate and start their careers.  It’s nice to know that we had something to do with their success.

In conclusion, student affairs professionals almost never have a “typical” day, or a “typical” student, so the key to really doing your job and doing it well, to really going “above and beyond” for your students is to know your job and know it well, know your students and know them well, know your school, your field, etc. In essence, simply CARE and put that care into practice

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Readers Comments

Melisha Childs 2012/03/22 at 3:14 pm

You are here too Rhonda! I like this article. It hits on some good points. I think that being genuine is the most critical point that you make because students know when we are being insincere. You said that even reticent students open up when we are transparent and that is true. Sometimes, people just need someone to listen. I am not an advisor but I think that not all students want advice; sometimes, they just want someone to hear their gripes. I had a student in my office the other week and when she finished venting, she told me “thank you for listening, I just wanted to get that off my chest about that teacher because she ‘gets on my nerves’.” So sometimes its just about lending someone an ear and not trying to devise and answer.

Rhonda Stabler 2012/03/28 at 11:27 am

Thank you Melisha, your support has meant so much to me!

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