‘Your coach, your mentor, your cheerleader’

Some departments holding advising appointments exclusively online; others providing in-person option

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COURTESY OF JEREMY WATSON

Jeremy Watson, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication academic adviser, said after he retired from the Navy, he felt like something was missing in his life — the ability to mentor people.

ALEXANDRIA OSBORNE, Evergreen reporter

The role of a college adviser often involves being the bearer of bad news. But to some, nothing beats the sight of a student reaching the finish line. 

Thousands of students, staff and faculty members counted down the days until everyone could return to Pullman again for in-person learning. Jeremy Watson, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication academic adviser, is just starting his in-person experience at WSU. 

“I had previous experience at a different school, but every school does things differently,” Watson said. “The curriculum is different, the systems are different, but that idea of advising stays pretty consistent and I had fantastic support from the leadership here at Murrow.”

Watson started his employment at WSU two weeks after people were sent home in March 2020 because of COVID-19. He said he is ready and looking forward to transitioning to an in-person atmosphere. 

Although the majority of classes have returned to in-person learning, Watson said he is still conducting his advising appointments virtually, as is the rest of Murrow. Having the ability to log on to an advising session anywhere a person goes greatly increases student’s accessibility to the service. 

“We can come to the student wherever they are,” Watson said. “Whether they’re at home or sitting in the [Compton Union Building], wherever they may be.”

Watson said even though academic advising is meant to keep students on track, he sees it more as a mentoring role. While it is easier for Watson to give students every answer they need, to him it is more of a success if they come to him about what they think they need.

“We’re here,” he said. “Your coach, your mentor, your cheerleader.”

Watson is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served for 22 years. He said after he retired, he felt like there was something missing in his life — the ability to mentor people.

Watson hates to be the bearer of bad news but said he loves being able to guide students through their academic careers at WSU.

“Delivering bad news is never fun. You know, that ‘hey, you’re going to have to extend your graduation timeline’ stuff,” Watson said. “Outside of that, I really don’t see anything that I don’t enjoy about it.”

While Murrow College is still doing appointments exclusively over Zoom, the School of Molecular Biosciences and others are allowing students and advisers to meet in person.

Mary Sànchez Lanier, WSU School of Molecular Biosciences professor, has 26 years of experience as an academic adviser. In her role, she meets with students about anything related to their academics and post-graduation plans. 

“Classes are an important part of that, but they aren’t the only part,” she said. “Let’s say you want to go into a graduate program; I’m going to ask how you are involved in undergraduate research, and if you are, how is [that] going.”

While Sànchez Lanier holds in-person and online advising sessions, most students try to attend their sessions face-to-face. She said there are advantages to both options.

While in-person sessions allow the student to have a more personal experience, Sànchez Lanier said meeting over Zoom allows them the opportunity to see each other’s faces without masks.

Sànchez Lanier said she tries to get students involved around campus when talking about their plans after graduation so they are better prepared for their future. 

Sànchez Lanier said seeing students succeed is one of the best parts of her job as an adviser. She enjoys being able to see students achieve their goals, even if those goals were not the ones a student initially set. 

“I’m lucky,” she said. “I almost feel like I see the best, but that’s because we have a lot of the best.”

Sànchez Lanier said she teaches biology alongside her role as an academic adviser. Even though managing her jobs is hectic at times, she has fun doing it. 

“Education is about broadening the mind,” she said. “I have a firm belief that our job at WSU is to find doors for students that they never even knew existed.”