Area of Specialization

Area of Specialization: Advising the Holistic Student

I created my Area of Specialization to reflect my career goals in higher education. Currently, I am beginning the process of applying to professional positions, and I am most drawn to positions where much of my time will be spent advising students in some way, individually or in small groups. Advising appeals to me the most because of the relationships that I’m able to build with students and the creative work we get to do together to figure out how they can achieve their goals.

However, the Holistic Student reflects a developmental approach to learning that considers the student outside of the classroom or advising appointment, in a residence hall, a student organization, the gym, or in relationships with others. Therefore, although my internships were all advising internships or teaching a course that acts as small group advising, the coursework I took reflects the holistic nature of student experiences in higher education, which moves beyond the challenges they face in their school work. AHE 599, First Year Student Programs and Philosophies, focused on the transition issues for incoming first year students as an element of development. AHE 599, Disability Issues, concerned itself with students with disabilities, as well as law and resources that impact that student group and benefit all stakeholders using Universal Design principles. AHE 599, Academic Advising, examined the theoretical underpinnings of the work of advising in the academic realm, in addition to the strategies and competencies necessary to be a great advisor. WS 535, Feminist Teaching and Learning, looked at teaching through a feminist lens by considering the identities of the students and creating a community of learning where personal experience is valued and an essential aspect of coursework. Finally, AHE 599, Student Leadership and Organization Development focused on developing students as leaders and supporting student organizations as a way for them to practice different types of leadership.

Students aren’t just students, and this simple fact is what motivated me to focus my Area of Specialization on the Holistic Student. Students have many other roles and identities, on campus, in their communities, and in their personal lives and relationships. I hope to be cognizant of all of these aspects of students when I advise them in my future professional position.

For more specific reflections on several students I have advised holistically, please click on the links below:

Advising Holistic Students #1

Advising Holistic Students #2

Advising Holistic Students #3


AHE 599: First Year Student Programs and Philosophies, 2 Credits

AHE 599: Disability Issues, 2 Credits

AHE 599: Academic Advising, 3 Credits

WS 535: Feminist Teaching and Learning, 3 Credits

AHE 599: Student Leadership and Organization Development, 3 Credits


Advising for General Engineering, College of Engineering, 2 Credits

Advising for the University Exploratory Studies Program, 4 Credits

Teaching a Recitation Section of ALS 114, Career Decision Making, for 3 Terms, 6 Credits

Interning at Western Oregon University’s Student Enrichment (TRiO) Program, 4 Credits

4 Responses to “Area of Specialization”

  1. Jeff M says:

    Am I correct in assuming this area will eventually begin with a brief narrative section (and perhaps some poetry) explicating your Area of Specialization and why it resonates with you?

    Your reflection journal for the UESP internship provides an excellent overview of the experience and some of the challenges manifest therein. I enjoyed seeing the direct application of the micro-skills from counseling class. Interesting read.

    • Yes, I have work to do on this page that narrates why I chose my Area of Specialization and what it means to me and to my work. Thanks so much, Jeff, for your positive feedback on my UESP journal, especially as that is your area of expertise!

  2. Anne Lapour says:

    I echo Jeff…seems this topic lends itself well to poetry! of course, I’m not a poet, but anyway…
    I really love this specialization. Both in counseling and teaching, it always seems that you miss a great deal if you fail to seek out the “whole student.” By doing so I think you’ll find it makes your job more complicated, but also more rewarding. And you do your students (and colleagues) a great service by attending to the holistic nature of students’ lives. What challenges do you see in this area of specialization, and what aspects do you find most rewarding? (And of course, sometimes the two go hand in hand:)

    • I think the biggest challenge in engaging holistically with students is time. I may only see a student for 50 minutes once. How can I possibly have a holistic view of a student in one 50 minute session? And I have to understand that there are things we won’t get to in that time, that there are issues we won’t address, and problems we won’t solve.
      I worked with a student last year in a 20 minute advising session. He was hoping to be in Civil Engineering, but had yet, after two years of trying, to be successful in passing the math class he needed to begin Civil Engineering coursework. In addition, this was an African American student athlete, and his time was split between football and school, with football currently more important. In our short time, we talked about what it was about Civil Engineering that he most wanted to do, why the math was tripping him up, and what courses he could take to continue moving forward toward his degree. But I could see that our conversation didn’t even scratch the surface of the struggles of this particular student. In this case, I referred him to someone in Civil Engineering who might be able to talk through the challenges and rewards of his goals more completely with a more specific knowledge of the individual requirements. But I left the session feeling like I had failed the student. I know now that there was more than I could handle in a 20 minute advising appointment on that one day. I know now that my challenge was time.
      However, when I do have a breakthrough with a student, we work on a cover letter that gets them an interview for a dream job or we talk about exploration in college and they seem to understand that they don’t need to know right now what will happen for the rest of their lives, I so appreciate that I used this holistic approach. The whole student is impacted by these kinds of shifts and changes, and I get to be a witness to those transformations!

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