By Kirstan Knowlton, M.A. ‘16
Five Questions is a regular feature in which we interview a College of Online and Continuing Education staff member. In this issue we talked with New Student Advisor and adjunct instructor Devin Sipley.
What do you enjoy most about advising students?
As an advisor, I get the pleasure of teaching and helping students from a variety of backgrounds. Many of these students have not taken college courses in a long time or may never have attended any college before. I get to help these students prepare for their journey and instill confidence that they may have difficulty finding themselves. Despite the struggles that can occur, there is no better feeling than hearing from a student when they succeed, whether it is earning a high grade after all the time they put in working on an assignment or passing their class at the end of the term.
What is the most difficult part of being an advisor?
One of the hardest things advisors encounter is watching students who fall behind in their coursework and then refuse to respond to outreach offering them help. You can be the best advisor in the world and you can call that student daily to let them know you want to discuss strategies for how to perform better in that class, but at the end of the day if the student never picks up the phone or takes the initiative to do the work, they just cannot be successful. As advisors, we have all the tools to help students, but at the end of the day we cannot do the work for them.
What is your proudest moment as an advisor?
This question is twofold for me, since I can think of a moment which had a personal connection as well as an instance where I was proud of how SNHU impacted a former student of mine. I had the pleasure of receiving an email this past November from one of my very first students. The student was finishing her degree, and she cared enough to remember me and reach out in writing to thank me for all the help I offered in her first six months at SNHU. As for the second moment, I watched one of my former advisees excel throughout her first three terms at SNHU, despite how nervous she was in the beginning. She loved everything about SNHU and became highly involved in SNHUconnect. I recently learned that she has continued to receive outstanding grades and has taken on the role of helping other students by becoming a peer mentor for SNHU connect. To see that same student go from being this shy, unconfident individual to an outspoken member of our community who now helps other students was extremely rewarding!
You’re also an instructor. What unique perspective do you bring to your advising role as a result?
As an instructor I see firsthand when students struggle with an assignment or turning in work on time. As a result I can clearly see how important the relationship is between advisors and faculty, in order to ensure everyone is reaching out and communicating to help the student succeed. I also find that I am able to communicate the importance of communication with instructors to my students. Frequently I draw on my own examples of teaching for SNHU to discuss with students how important it is to let their instructor know when they are going to be late with an assignment, or if something is going on which is preventing them from doing their work. Finally, I find that having these roles allows me to continually look for opportunities or areas where we could strengthen the relationship between Advising and faculty. Being able to do this allows me to discuss with leadership any changes that should be implemented to ensure everything is running smoothly for both sides.
You’ve taught on campus and online. What are the benefits of teaching courses in the online environment?
I find teaching courses online can be extremely rewarding. I think the argument could be made that an online instructor can have a chance to make personal connections with students more frequently than a class that meets in person. When I taught at a campus, I only met with my class twice a week, and a majority of the time was spent preparing materials for the week and delivering a lesson. However, in my online classes at SNHU, I can converse with students on a daily basis and give them my full attention. As a final note, I love helping students who might not have been able to pursue a degree if they were confined to a physical classroom. Online education at SNHU opens doors for students restricted by time constraints and physical barriers, without requiring them to sacrifice having a quality education.