In continuation of our first “Talking with Advisors” article on Marty Lowman, I caught up with Dina Fox, Manager of Academic Support and Advisement Services at Niagara College.
Prior to her current role, Dina spent over 10 years advising students in post-secondary, most recently with Brock University. She also held roles as an Employment Counsellor and Job Developer working with diverse populations within a community based agency.
Dina, tell us a bit about your advising experience.
Dina: The majority of my experience, regardless of role, has been supporting and advising individuals who face multiple barriers to securing employment or reaching their educational goals. In reflecting I see many similarities within all of my positions as advising is all about building trusting relationships, setting clear expectations, ensuring accurate information is conveyed and empowering individuals to take responsibility for opportunities/challenges presented to them.
While you were working as a Supervisor of Advising at Brock you also completed your Masters of Education. I understand your research was focused on advising. Can you elaborate?
Dina: I placed emphasis on two main areas within advising; online technologies and advising at-risk students. One piece of my research involved the completion of a technology needs assessment, investigating the tools advisors were using, to what degree advisors we were using them and the comfort level with these tools among the participants. With respect to at-risk students my main interest involved mature students and those on academic probation.
What was one of the most interesting tidbits you learned from your research?
Dina: Mature students tend to respond very well to prescriptive advising. Their goals and needs are different from the traditional student. They want to know how to get from point A to B in the most direct route possible because they are juggling multiple responsibilities and timing is of the essence.
It is assumed that advising between colleges and universities differ. What is your take on this now that you have worked for both?
Dina: The student’s personalities are very similar and they struggle with similar issues. The major difference I have witnessed thus far is the prescribed programming and less mobility in college. Where College students follow a pre-set timetable University students have the ability to build their own. A greater detail of freedom of choice at registration can mean that it is a lot easier for them to make a misstep.
As an advisor, what did you find most challenging?
Dina: I was a general advisor which required a wide breadth of knowledge in program requirements, processes, deadlines and challenges a student may face transferring out of their current program. Personally, the challenge was not knowing the end result of a student. There was not a lot of follow-up so I would not know if they were successful in returning to a previous program or transferred into something new.
Dina: Attending convocation and watching the students cross the stage. I certainly appreciate the ones who have specifically thanked me for playing a part in their success.
Final question. Do you have any advice for current or future advisors?
Dina: Take pride in the fact that Advising truly is an essential part of student success. Stay connected to the campus and up to date on programs, supports, and key contacts in specific departments or service areas. Always continue to build and maintain those relationships.
Don’t underestimate the importance of word of mouth between students and campus partners who don’t’ hesitate to tell a student, “Go see___ they will help you out.”
Dina, thank you for taking the time to chat, it was great hearing your perspective and getting to know you a little better.
Advisors, if you have suggestions for interviewees, please let us know!
– Kate Devereaux, is an Academic Advisor for the School of Media Studies at Niagara College; and a member of the OAAP Steering Committee