Craig McGill earned an MS in Academic Advising in August 2010 and completed the certificate in 2009. He plans to travel to Manhattan, Kansas this December to attend K-State’s commencement ceremony. We caught up with him at the NACADA conference in Orlando and he shared his experiences with the K-State Academic Advising Graduate Program.
I started my first class for the graduate certificate in Academic Advising in June 2006—over four years ago. At the time, I was about to enter a graduate program in Music, and planned to complete the certificate simultaneously—augmenting my regular semesters with one advising course. My other graduate work took over and I decided that I could not do both, but I always kept academic advising in the back of my mind.
When I finished my Masters Degree in May 2008, I did not know where I was heading. I still was thirsty for education, but was not yet ready to enter a PhD program. And there was still this unfinished certificate… So, two years after starting the certificate, I began it again with the justification that even if I never advised formally, a background in student affairs would be helpful in whichever career route I pursued. After only one class, I knew that I wanted to become an academic advisor. I applied for several academic advising jobs with no luck. With no advising job, I decided to continue with the Master of Science Program. One month later, I landed a part time advising gig!
I have worked for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for just over a year. I have been part time up until September 1st. I finished the certificate in December 2009, and completed the M.S. degree in August 2010. I assist with advising for the Biochemistry Department (we have one full time Biochemistry professional advisor), and in my new full time role, I now am the chief advisor for our growing Forensic Science department (currently, in its 4th year).
My personal advising philosophy is one of pedagogy: as a teacher guides a student through the content of a single course, the advisor’s role is to show how the students’ courses relate to their entire curriculum and life-plan. Advising is not merely ticking off requirements, but rather, an exploratory and comprehensive process of helping the student to discover their life goals, values, beliefs, passions and talents. I believe advising should be focused on strengths, since dwelling on a student’s weaknesses is like advising a student who is not there. Most importantly, I do not view education as a means to an end, but rather, as a lifetime process. If I can effectively communicate that attitude to the students I work with, I have done my job.
The program has helped me so much! Since I did not have advising experience when I started, the program helped me get my current position, and the completion of the degree was the impetus to make my part time job a full time position. In addition, the degree gave me leverage in the advising job market. What I learned in the courses has not only enriched my practice, but also, has changed me as a person. One of the most important lessons I learned in one course in particular has shaped my entire world-view. I am grateful for the experience and the extra credentials!