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March 14, 2012 Volume 33, No. 24

Advisers offer students expertise on more than course selection

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NATIONAL recognition

Two advisers receive advising awards

Trista Strauch and Susan Klusmeier are in a league of their own. They belong to a community of advisers dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at Mizzou.

In early March, Strauch and Klusmeier each won awards from the National Academic Advising Association for their student advising expertise at Mizzou. 

In the end, though, the students they advise are the real winners.

The small things

Klusmeier, an academic adviser in the Trulaske College of Business for five years, also serves as coordinator of the college’s diversity programs and director of the Vasey Academy, a scholarship program for minority students. 

While students and parents may believe an adviser’s role is to tell students what classes to take, Klusmeier said there is much more to it. 

“We get satisfaction out of getting to know everything about our students and helping them succeed outside of the classroom,” Klusmeier said. “A lot of us work to connect with students in ways that go beyond just telling them what classes to take.”

Sometimes, the small things advisers do for students have the biggest impact. One student, for example, kept sending Klusmeier emails with questions and apologies for asking. Klusmeier told her to keep the questions coming.

“I was surprised that she felt I had done a huge thing for her,” Klusmeier said.

Good advisers also know when to pass the baton. “Our students, because we are their primary contact person, will come to us with many questions about financial aid or housing,” Klusmeier said. “I have to be ready to direct students to the appropriate resources. Sometimes that means making phone calls for the students or giving them tools to do the follow-up on their own.”

Getting to know you

Strauch, an assistant teaching professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, has been advising students since 2007.

A challenge is getting students to talk honestly about their advisory needs, she said. “No matter how much I want to assist them, I am only as good as the information they share with me. When they don’t open up, it is much more difficult to appropriately advise.”

Strauch said she tries to get to know the students before offering advice. “I believe this increases their comfort level greatly, and makes them more likely to provide the whole picture for me,” she said. 

A good adviser is available, listens, understands university regulations and workforce expectations, and treats students with compassion and respect, Strauch said. 

Advisers “keep students on track for graduation and assist in choosing a combination of courses that promote success,” she said. “They encourage students to grow professionally outside the classroom and make sure students do not fall between the cracks.

“They push their advisees beyond what they believe they can accomplish,” Strauch continued, “and they assist the student in finding his or her personal and professional identity.” 

Though honored to receive the advising award, Strauch said her greatest reward is learning that her advisees have gone on to achieve success.