Great Advisors Reflect

by Elizabeth Wilcox

Berkeley is a place where greatness is nurtured and celebrated – including great advising. Presented here are quotes on great advising from our interviews with a sampling of Berkeley’s best-of-the-best.

Great advising is a process of asking open-ended questions that lead to life changing aha moments.

Patrick Allen, Director of Student Services, Economics

Great advisors let students know that they can talk about anything. They create inclusive, trustworthy, non-judgmental, safe spaces.

Nadine Spingola-Hutton, M.Ed., Undergraduate Student Services Advisor, Earth and Planetary Science

Great advisors are always looking to improve themselves and their advising abilities through continuous education.

Blaine Jones, Graduate Student Services Advisor, History of Art

Great advising can disrupt negative narratives about ability and identity and reframe these by helping students identify and acknowledge previously unrecognized strengths. Students come away with a new sense of agency, confidence and ability to self-advocate.

Carolyn Swalina, M.A., College Adviser, Letters & Science Undergraduate Advising

Great advisors have the capacity to employ “compassionate candor”.  I define that as being honest, authentic, and transparent in your care for the student, while still asking the tough questions or challenging the student’s perceptions. When the advisor and student connect as unique individuals, great, constructive things can happen.

Christopher Hunn, Associate Director of UG Matters &Letters & Science CS Advisor

Great advisors are often part of great advising teams where individual strengths and creative talents are leveraged to make us better than we could be on our own. We are stronger together for students.

Amy Griggs, M.S., International Student Advisor, Berkeley International Office

Great advisors are able to connect students with small, unique, out of the way opportunities that are the perfect fit for each student. They expand choices and options.

Bridgette Lehrer, M.A., College Adviser, Letters & Science Undergraduate Advising

Great advisors create spaces where students can be themselves and talk about what’s going on below the surface. They view students as capable and resilient and they remind students of how strong they are.

Brieanna Wright, Academic Achievement Counselor, Incentive Awards Program

Great advisors see things from the student’s perspective. They understand how intimidating Berkeley can be and they help students interpret, navigate and understand our complex systems and hierarchies. They break down that myth that you can’t visit a Noble laureate during office hours.

Claudia Trujillo, Student Services Manager, Physics

Great advisors make the University a smaller and more comfortable place by being a real person; something as simple as remembering a student’s name can make a huge impact.

Dewey St. Germaine, Academic Advisor, Ethnic Studies

Great advisors love students and they work to help every student succeed. They meet students where they’re at by understanding and responding to their unique needs. They think outside the box in suggesting options, opportunities, and resources.

Dolann M. Adams, Admissions Outreach Coordinator, Haas School of Business UG Program

Every day, each student, and every advising interaction is unique. A great advisor responds by adapting their style, technique and strategies to meet individual needs and situations. They see every interaction as an opportunity to get better.

Elizabeth Storer, M.A., Academic Advisor, Molecular Environmental Biology

Great advisors know how to ask the right questions, in the right way, at the right time.

Heather Peng, M.A., College Advisor, Letters & Science Undergraduate Advising

Great advisors recognize the uniqueness of each student in terms of background, interests, pressures and goals and deliver resources that suit the individual.

Jessica Clarkson, Student Services Advisor, African Student Center

Great advisors know that the advisor advisee relationship is reciprocal and that we teach and learn new things from each other.

Khia Serneo, Lead Undergraduate Advisor, Economics

Great advisors ask the simple but totally illuminating question that no one has asked before. A mindful and intentional approach can create opportunities for students to open up and trust us with truly sensitive matters. In return we provide undoubted and genuine support.

Laura Jimenez-Olvera, M.S., Advisor/Academic Counselor, Ethnic Studies

Great advisors have a “say yes” mindset. They are helpers by nature and are always ready to give. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the student experience, to take on new projects, and to connect with and support their peers.

Meaghan DeRespini, M.A., Student Services Advisor, Fall Program for Freshman 

Great advisors approach student interactions with genuine curiosity. They give students the opportunity to talk about whatever interests them.

Melissa Pon, M.S., College Advisor, Letters & Science Undergraduate Advising

Great advisors see every session as a way to personally connect and provide individualized support and attention. They humanize the University by showing students that someone cares for them.

Mitzi Iñiguez, M.A., Academic Counselor, Educational Opportunity Program

Great advising facilitates the learning process. Through self-reflection and synthesis the advisor is connecting the student’s thoughts and words to broader ideas, possibilities and options.

Omar Ramirez, Undergraduate Advisor, Landscape Architecture & Urban Studies

Great advisors operate from a humble place, letting the student's story unfold - listening and responding with sensitivity, awareness and empathy. 

Paige Lee, College Advisor, Letters & Science Undergraduate Advising

Great advisors admire students and believe in them. They know that every student has their own unique story and challenges and they do everything possible to create opportunity, encourage and build confidence.

Sharon Mueller, Academic Advisor, Engineering Student Services

Great advising is a collaboration– an opportunity to confirm a student’s choices and interests and to reassure them that they are as smart and capable as everyone around them.  I see myself as an interpreter, sounding board, mediator, advocate and conduit between students and faculty.

Shirley Salanio, Associate Director of Graduate Matters, EEECS

Great advisors are both present and vulnerable. They stay connected in the moment and have the capacity to develop caring and supportive ongoing relationships.

B. Yuki Burton, M.Ed., Academic Counselor, Educational Opportunity Program

I try to balance the need to talk with the need to listen and resist the urge to fill up silences and help with answers to challenging questions. This practice helps students realize their own personal power and capacity for decision making.

Jane Paris, Academic Advisor, Engineering Student Services

Great advising is part of a discovery process; over time students get a better sense of who they are, how they learn, where they fit in, who they are going to be, and how to do their best.

Leah Flanagan, Advisor, History

Great advisors know that every student has the potential to succeed and they use a combination of questioning, empathy, cheerleading, and tough love to help students grow.

Melissa Hacker, Director of Student Affairs, Haas School of Business, Ph.D. program

Great advisers listen, are engaged, and facilitate a supportive community. We also recognize that one can't do it alone; collaboration with faculty, students and staff is key. I have such wonderful students and they know my door is always open!

Rocio Sanchez, Graduate Academic and Student Advisor, Plant and Microbial Biology and Graduate Group in Microbiology

Asking for help can be intimidating; great advisors are compassionate and caring in their response to student needs. They take the time to ask the simple question no one has asked before. Students leave feeling empowered, grounded and like they have new solutions and options.

Avisha Chugani, Academic Counselor, Educational Opportunity Program