Campus News

After a tragic death, a look into the impact of advisors

Colin Rohm, a UW-Madison student advisor, recently passed away as a result of bacterial pneumonia and complications of Type I diabetes.

With thousands of courses to choose from and a variety of graduation requirements to fulfill, the course selection process can be daunting.

Fortunately, UW-Madison has a network of advisors who can make this process easier.

Colin Rohm, who passed away last week from bacterial pneumonia and complications of Type I diabetes, was an academic advisor in various UW-Madison departments. According to his obituary, Rohm particularly enjoyed advising incoming freshman students at Student Orientation, Advising and Registration.

Rohm’s passion did not go unnoticed.

Janie Genske, a freshman at UW-Madison, said she first met Rohm at SOAR. Genske said Rohm’s advising had a large impact on her first year at UW-Madison, saying he encouraged her to join a history-oriented fraternity.

“I never dreaded going to see my advisor because he was always so helpful and enthusiastic,” Genske said. “I truly looked forward to seeing Colin because I knew we would bond over our nerdy love for history.”

Many students in the College of Letters and Science also reported having advisors that made a positive impact on their college careers.

A Spring 2017 L&S Academic Advising Services Satisfaction survey showed that 96 percent of students left their appointment with a better knowledge of potential majors and remaining course requirements. Additionally, 97 percent of students reported that they felt supported or relieved after an advising session.

According to Wren Singer, director of Undergraduate Advising, there are around 500 people who have an advising role across campus and 200 of them are full-time advisors.

Singer said that advisors can have a range of two to 1,000 students. The Undergraduate Department aims for advisors to have an average of 300 to 350 students, which varies depending on the type of advising.

From planning programs to assisting freshman students with the transition to college, advisors take on many different roles as both mentors and professionals.

“[Advisors] answer questions, help students make decisions and support them if they’re having difficulty in any part of their lives,” Singer said. “They do a lot of different things. It’s a very interesting and complex job.”

Darby Sugar, an undergraduate advisor in the School of Nursing, also mentioned the diversity of advisors’ roles.

“Every student who walks through the door is totally different and has a unique educational experience,” Sugar said. “You get to work with a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.”

Due to the variety and number of students that advisors see, Sugar said she is able to use different students’ experiences to advise others in similar situations.

“By looking at what other students have done, we can help a student brainstorm the numerous different pathways that they can complete a degree for any type of education they are looking to achieve,” Sugar said.

Additionally, other UW-Madison advisors agreed that helping students was one of the most important responsibilities of their role.

Ann Lloyd, an L&S academic advisor, said it is especially rewarding when students say they gain more clarity after an advising session.

“It’s a very powerful feeling when a student says they feel better or that they finally understand the path they are heading,” Lloyd said. “It is so rewarding when they say that I answer questions they didn’t even know they had.”

Both Lloyd and Ellen Jacobson, an advisor in the sociology department, used one word to describe the most valuable aspect for students who seek help from advisors — continuity.

Jacobson said that some advisors meet with students from their first year at the university to their last, which allows them to get to know one another.

Similar to Jacobson, Lloyd said continuity “gives students another community to be connected with and a resource that they feel comfortable reaching out to.”

Lloyd said she hopes that more students will reach out to their advisors.

“I just really hope students will come and see us,” she said. “We can make a difference. That’s what we’re here for and what we thrive on.”

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