Advisers available, building relationships

Eva Navarijo, Norm Wright
Eva Navarijo, Norm Wright

Eva Navarijo, advising director in UW Bothell’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, says a lot of students, aware of how stressed everyone is because of the coronavirus pandemic, begin conversations apologetically, “I’m sorry to bother you…”

Navarijo understands that concern.

“All of us have a lot on our plates. All of our schools are building things, creating new documents, developing new virtual tools to help facilitate online learning,” said Navarijo, one of three advisers who normally would be found in the IAS office in Founders Hall (UW1).

But Navarijo and her colleagues also want to remove that concern.

All the academic advisers at UW Bothell are still a resource that students can turn to — remotely.

“It’s new, and we’re going to make it work. It’s certainly a disruption to normal operations, but it’s not a stop,” Navarijo said. “We’re still meeting face-to-face. It’s just electronically right now.”

‘We’re still here’

Norm Wright, assistant director of advising for pre-major students, would normally be working with five other professional advisers, plus five student peer advisers, in the Student Success Center. Now, they’re working by video conferencing.

“We’re still here. We want to see students. This is what we do,” Wright said, “and I know for me and my team, this is what brings us joy — to be able to interact with students. We want to be able to support them as they pursue their education.”

Before COVID-19, a typical meeting with a pre-major adviser to talk about the next quarter’s schedule was like a visit to the doctor’s office. Students would check in. Advisers would meet with them confidentially.

Now, when students want to check on their progress toward a major, it’s a conversation in an online “room.” Sometimes, it is also a longer conversation because of additional concerns. Some advising sessions that normally took 30 minutes, now take an hour, Wright said.

Facing new issues

Students are dealing with stress from losing jobs or moving back home or feeling alone. Advisers, who are also more isolated now, are offering suggestions and referencing the COVID-19 resource page,” Wright said. “All our resources are still available. They just look different.”

Navarijo has similar experiences. She’s still hearing from juniors and seniors thinking about graduating, making sure courses count toward their major. But there’s also the feeling that students are missing the smaller classrooms, the faculty mentorships and sense of community that were the reasons they chose UW Bothell.

Then, there are other students who are embracing online learning and making it work.

“Our faculty are certainly supporting that transition, trying to be accommodating,” Navarijo said. “I think everyone feels like they’re in this interesting moment, this interesting experiment together. I think there’s a mentality of making it work.”

Being the resource

Advisers who value face-to-face interactions are taking on the challenge of maintaining a sense of connection and togetherness, Wright said.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of effort from everyone across campus to help students feel that sense of belonging so they feel connected to the greater University of Washington Bothell,” he said.

Advisers want to be the people who students turn to, Navarijo said.

“We want to know our students’ stories. We want to become the one person on campus where a student can be completely authentic and share concerns about their ability to succeed,” she said.

“Certainly, we have webpages with lists of resources. We have links we can share, PDF documents that might be useful. But those are really just the tools,” Navarijo said. “The academic adviser is the resource here.”

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