K-State Academic Advising Program Leads to New Career

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!

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