Sara Veverka, College Advisor in the College of Letters and Science Office of Undergraduate Education, has been at Berkeley for nine years and has great advice to share with her fellow advisors. Most importantly, you don't have to have all the answers at your fingertips.
How did you get into advising?
I discovered academic advising/counseling through an office assistant position at the Diablo Valley College Counseling Center. I had just completed my Bachelors Degree and was having second thoughts about a career in teaching. With this in mind, I decided to take a year off before going back to credential school, to work and explore my career possibilities. As an office assistant at the DVC Counseling Center, I worked primarily at the front desk fielding students’ questions, scheduling and checking students in for appointments, and answering the phone. In this role, I was able to get a sense of the responsibilities of an academic advisor, and how a typical day looked. For the first time in my life, I felt all the pieces of my career puzzle coming together; I’d discovered something I felt passionate about, that also didn’t feel like just a job. Engaging with a diverse student population and collaboration with counseling staff, faculty, and campus and community partners were just a few components of the position that were very appealing to me. I realized, also, that I was better suited for the one-on-one interaction with students as opposed to a group setting (i.e. teaching).
What is your favorite part of your job as an advisor?
When a student enters my office distressed, frustrated, upset, etc., and leaves with a smile on their face.
Do you have a special tip or recommendation for other advisors that you use daily?
Students are often overwhelmed with options regarding majors, careers, enrichment opportunities outside of the classroom, studying abroad…(and the list goes on!), and as a result, become paralyzed in the decision-making process. Collecting information and utilizing on and off-campus resources can be easy compared to the task of actually making a decision. I always try to reassure my students that there’s more than one ‘right’ choice to be made, and just making a decision in itself is taking a big step. In addition, I often mention that there are several paths to take – not just one – in landing your dream job or getting into a top graduate program. In fact, that path might look very different than the path taken by one of their peers.
If you could tell yourself something that you know now that you wish you knew when you first began advising, what would it be?
Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers at your fingertips. It’s okay to show your human side, and always try to keep a sense of humor.