Sometimes a sympathetic ear is all that is neededor all that a professor has to offer. After all, faculty members realize they don't have answers to all student problems. A student recently came to Beran in tears because she was having financial problems and couldn't afford to stay in school. "There wasn't a lot I could do," he says, "except listen."
Listening may be enough, but many faculty members wish they had more training to deal with the crises that students experience. "When students come in and say, 'I've been raped,' they want you to know what they should do," Korman says. Like other faculty members who advise students on personal matters, he has developed a working knowledge of where to refer students who are wrestling with problems that need more than common sense and sympathy.
Mack, for one, believes that faculty members, especially those new to the profession, should be given training to help them work with students who have problems. "When I started out as a professor, no one worried about drug abuse, sexual abuse, and a lot of other issues," Mack says. "Now those problems are everywhere."
Different faculty members have widely varying approaches to responding to students' needs. Korman, for instance, takes an institutional approach. He rewrote the advising manual for the School of Architecture a few years ago and updates it every year. Each fall, architecture faculty members attend a training session that reinforces the importance of being sensitive to students' needs. Korman believes supportive faculty are especially crucial in a school like architecture, where the rigorous curriculum puts extra stress on students. "Most of our students come directly out of high school into a full-blown professional curriculum that's not much different from what's required of medical students or law students," he says. "The difference is that these students are just 18 years old. We see lots of students who are in crisis."
Hartmann pumps up students with his philosophy of success, including such positive adages as "Don't complain, compete!" and "Be a no-excuse person." Perdue makes it a point to have regular contact with students outside the classroom. She hosts events, writes a "horoscope" for each student that reviews the student's accomplishments and makes predictions for the upcoming year, and has each of her advisees keep a journal, which allows her to know what's on their mind and address any problems before they become overwhelming. Champagne often involves students in group responses when they come to her frustrated by social injustices and other issues. For example, after gay student Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming in the fall of 1998, many gay and lesbian students shared their fears with her about a similar incident happening here. She encouraged them to get involved in a memorial service for Shepard and other events aimed at fighting campus homophobia.
While many professors see counseling students on personal issues as an essential part of their role as educators, others prefer to focus strictly on their academic responsibilities to students. "Fortunately, most of us realize we need to go further," Champagne says. For those who do, there's an understanding that this type of advising offers challenges and rewards, frustration and satisfaction, and, above all, an opportunity to help someone who trusts them and confides in them. "I believe I have failed if I don't have a personal relationship with all my advisees," Perdue says. "I want them to feel that they can come to me and work out issues." Such involvement comes naturally to Perdue and others. Mack, in fact, expresses surprise that anyone would think he is an extraordinary advisor because he talks with students about life matters. "I just thought that was the normal way to advise," he says.
Back to page 3
Back to page 2
Back to page 1
E-mail the magazine editor
E-mail the web guy
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE
820 Comstock Ave., Rm. 308
Syracuse, NY 13244-5040