The Power of Connections

First, welcome back. After a long, tumultuous journey, spanning several months, I feel as though I found a bit of the voice I’d lost and am thrilled to be posting again to this blog. And the seemingly simplest of things helped me find my way back. Last night, I made a request of my facebook friends.

I’m not being braggadacious when I point out that I have a large number of facebook friends– for those of you reading this who don’t know, or have forgotten, I used to actively friend all of my advisees back when academic advising was my primary role. For a while, I had close to 2000 friends and a tremendous majority of them were advisees, both current, but now all former. I don’t know if they all understood at the time that their acceptance of my friend request signified to me that I had so effectively forged a trust-based relationship with them that they invited me into their facebook world. I considered this a HUGE win. Some of my peers and colleagues wrote it (and my feelings of victoriousness) off as students simply having acquiesced to my request because of the power I held in the relationship as their academic advisor. A position that offended me to my core, as I always strived to meet students as equals, intentionally and purposefully eschewing the typically authoritative role of “teacher” in a teacher-centered reality.

So, back to the request I made last night. My wife and I recently made the decision to cut cable and are relying solely on Roku and an indoor, “over-the-air,” antenna for our family’s television entertainment. And when she and I have tried to find a movie or series to watch, we’ve found many of the current offerings to be portraying a majority of the characters as deceitful, vile, people with dead souls and no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Many of them have been intriguing at first glance, but then deeper layers of violent or unscrupulous or tawdry behavior are revealed, leaving us feeling disturbed and distressed. And with all that is disturbed and distressing about the real world, we certainly don’t need those conditions of human life to be replicated and exaggerated in the fiction in which we choose to indulge. We have literally found only one or two things to watch that don’t leave us feeling as though there is no humanity left in the world. (Sherlock is balanced between intrigue and ‘reality’ and the English Baking Challenge as well as the Kids’ Baking Championship, which our ten-year old absolutely adores are refreshingly free of vindictive competitors speaking ill of their peers). So I posted about this on facebook, imploring our friends to make some suggestions, and one of my former advisee/friends (also one of the first advisees I ever friended) made a contribution to the post.

This simple little act not only gave me another series to delve into, but it also reinforced my belief in the power of connections–in life and in the advising/mentoring relationship. That he is still a participant in my social network, after nearly a decade, negates the nay-sayers insisting that all those connections were forced by my authority. It reaffirmed my belief that the mentoring relationship may end when there is nothing more through which to guide your mentee, but that the conclusion of the mentoring relationship can result in a lasting, friendly connection. It also helped me feel less distressed about reality and the road ahead in these uncertain times.

Oh, the power of connections…

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About Art

I've been a higher education professional for over 15 years and an Academic Advising administrator for the past eight of those. I have a background in exploratory student advising and have spent a great deal of time guiding students through contemplating their personal college-to-career pathways. I've published, presented, and consulted on the intersection of social media and academia and am a firm believer in social media's power as a tool for engagement rather than solely information delivery. I've worked at public and private institutions as well as 2-year colleges and 4-year universities. I believe in Academic Advising as a teaching and learning activity, that learner-centered education is the key to students' academic success, and that as long as we keep students' individual goals and success at the center of our decision-making process, the problem of college-level student attrition can be solved.
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One Response to The Power of Connections

  1. This is an interesting read! I’m wondering, though, how you feel this could actually hinder the advisor/advisee relationship? I don’t necessarily mean in terms of the power differential, but what do you do when you see an advisee engaging in illegal acts? Or if you find out some information that might reshape how you see your students? Whether or not we want to admit it, we are constantly taking in information and assigning value whether conscious or not. I often tow the same line as you–I do not actively seek out my advisees as friends but do accept their requests. Do you have a separate account for your professional self? This are all questions I ask myself and i unpack what it means to be a professional–and if its ever possible to place hard and fast boundaries between work and professional life. Again, thank you for your honest and for you post–it all boils down to what we are here for: relationships!

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