A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Advisor Helps Students Chart Academic Plans

August 26, 2013

Alisha Kimble has worked as a student academic advisor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SSHA) since July 1, 2005.

In the role, she's helped hundreds of students with their scholastic dreams and watched as the school has grown and expanded its academic offerings. Last year, SSHA had more than 1,700 students in need of advising. 

Kimble came to campus after working at California State University, Stanislaus, where she had a temporary position as an academic advisor. Before that, she served as student co-coordinator of new student orientation.

She knows firsthand how classes can play an important role in a student's future. 

What made you interested in becoming an advisor for the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts? What do you do in this role?

At the time, my position at CSU, Stanislaus, was ending, and I was looking for a new position. After interviewing with SSHA, I became intrigued by the idea of building a whole program. I was very fortunate that the administration and faculty kind of gave me free rein to design an undergraduate advising program. I really appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with individuals across campus, including Linda Zubke and Angie Salinas, to create a program that served our students and aligned with national standards for undergraduate advising. Now, I serve as the manager and lead academic advisor for SSHA Office of Undergraduate Advising. Our office includes myself, three (and soon four) advisors and a team of student assistants. Our goal is not just to help students enroll in the appropriate courses and complete their degrees, but to make sure they have access to the knowledge they need to develop their own educational plans. We strive to provide a supportive, safe atmosphere that allows students to make the best decisions for them — consistent with their personal values, goals and career plans.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The “ah ha” moment — when I am able to provide a student information, resources or tools that help them realize the next step, whether that be something as simple as selecting an elective or as life changing as participating in a study abroad or internship program. Our office does comprehensive advising, which means we meet our students at new student orientation (and sometimes before) and clear their degrees at graduation. I really enjoy watching students grow and mature through this cycle.

What are some of the biggest challenges in your work and how do you overcome them?

Like most other staff members at UC Merced, my biggest challenge is workload. We have large student loads and as equally significant administrative responsibilities. We try to overcome this by maintaining communication with our students and providing resources on our website. We also have to face the challenges of curricular and administrative changes that come with a still-growing university. We are usually the messengers of changes to curriculum, policy and so on, so we get the brunt of student frustration. We try to manage this by being honest and transparent with students, providing information and explanations whenever (and wherever) we can.

What new initiatives/projects/plans are you looking forward to this year?

I am very excited to be hiring another advisor for our office. This change will allow us to hone our efforts in developing support programs and resources targeting specific student populations (e.g. transfer, major or minor specific, high performing) and improve our services to SSHA students as a whole. I’m also looking forward to opportunities to collaborate more fully with units across campus to enhance student success across the board.

Tell us something about yourself that most people on campus wouldn’t know.

I never intended to be in a “helping” profession. My bachelor’s degree was in organizational communications, and I had originally planned to write for a newspaper. In my junior year, I needed extra units for graduation, so I enrolled in a peer advising class. As an orientation leader that summer, I realized how much I enjoyed working with students. I finished my bachelor's in organizational communications, but then went on to pursue a master's in school counseling. I tell my students to seize any opportunity as you never know where it will take you!