I've had two interesting student visits so far this week.
The other day, a student came in again after a year or so; he was in my writing classe several years ago, and has come by to get feedback on writing application letters and statements of purpose. I found out that the last application I helped him write was successful, which was happy news.
Now he's applying for grad school, so I read his statement of purpose and gave him some feedback, sending him off to revise and then come back with a new version.
If I were smart, I'd charge a couple hundred dollars an hour for such advice. Alas, I'm just a phud. I'm sure the powers that be would be happy that I've helped a student who's not "mine" in any way these days, but I wonder if I actually have a legal responsibility to do so? I mean, could I legally say, "no, sorry, I don't have time," and not hear badly if he decided to complain to someone way higher up?
(Not that I mind helping him, but if I got $100 for the half hour, that wouldn't hurt, either. Of course, I'd probably have to pay for my office usage, and the state would find a way to make that cost more than I'd make.)
Then today, one of my advisees dropped in unexpectedly (and not during office hours), looking a bit iffy. So in she came to talk about what classes she's going to take next semester.
Turns out, when she looks at the course offerings, she's not really interested in taking classes in either her major or minor. Well, that's a problem. So we talked, and now she's going to take a couple courses to explore potential majors and minors, more in line with what really interests her. And if things work out, she'll sign up for something else and be a whole lot happier.
The thing about both of these interactions was that I spent a lot longer than one might think trying to help each of the students understand something about how their education should matter to them, not only for taking the next professional or career step, but as an education.
When I was a student, I never really talked to an advisor much; I signed up for my major, and then 3 and a half years later, I learned that my advisor had gone somewhere else, and I had to get a different prof to sign off on my degree check. (Happily, that worked out well. And interestingly, that different prof had met with me for summer advising the summer before I entered college, so there was a sort of rounding out to my college education. And I'd taken several classes with him, and learned a lot. Thanks, Professor R.)
So in grad school, I never thought about trying to help students think about their whole education. And yet I've learned that helping students put together the disparate aspects of their education to make a whole is actually a really important part of my work.
One of these students is a graduating senior; he should be putting things together, with help from his advisor (or a random Bardiac), but mostly on his own. The other student is closer to the beginning of her academic career, and so it makes more sense that her advisor (me) needs to add perspective and an overview.
Questions for the blogosphere:
for students (and past students): are you getting a sense of synthesis about the education you're earning? If so, how and where? Advising? Classes?
for grad students: are you getting mentoring about helping undergrads put things together? Did you get help yourself as an undergrad? Or did you pretty much do it yourself?
for instructors/faculty members: does your school emphasize putting things together for students? Do you have a sense that this is fairly new, or not, where you are? Does your school, department, or program formalize that synthesis?