Political science academic advisor
By Heather Turner
June 30, 2016
Andy Edwards is an academic advisor for online and on-campus political science students in Oregon State University’s College of Liberal Arts. He previously served as an academic advisor for politics and global studies at Arizona State University. He earned a B.A. in Political Science and Middle East History from Northwestern University, a M.S.E. in College Student Personnel Administration from Indiana University and a M.S. in Sociology from the University of Oregon.
Briefly describe your role as an advisor for Oregon State Ecampus political science students.
“My basic role is helping students with course selection, graduation requirements and understanding/navigating university policies. However, I am open to almost any OSU-related question. If I do not know the answer, I will do my best to find someone who does. On a larger scale, I assist with longer-range goals of planning for life after graduation. Ultimately, I want to leave final choices up to the student, but have them understand the pros and cons of any decision.”
What made you decide to get into this field?
“Getting into student affairs as a whole was a last-minute inspiration. During my senior year of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I loved being a resident assistant and realized my supervisor worked full time and had to be getting paid, so there was a career field there. I asked him about his job, the pros/cons of it, how he got where he was and the necessary degrees. After earning the required master’s degree, I became a residence hall director for two years. While I enjoyed the impact I made with students in the residence halls, the 24-hour a day nature of the position was challenging. Transitioning to advising allowed me to continue to work with students and focus more on the academic side of their development. While I have explored other careers on a couple of occasions, I have always come back home to advising and really enjoy it.”
What’s the best part of your job? Tell us in 20 words or less.
“Assisting a freshman seeking ‘easy’ classes to develop into a senior choosing courses that challenge his/her view of the world.”
“Ultimately, I want to leave final choices up to the student, but have them understand the pros and cons of any decision.”
What is most fascinating to you about political science?
“Living in the U.S., many of us take our political system for granted. At first glance, it seems unchanging, stable and, to a certain extent, boring. This is why as an undergraduate I focused my studies on the political systems in the Soviet Union (yep, I’m old. It was the USSR until I was most of the way through college) and the Middle East. In reality though, all systems are continually changing as they respond to wants, needs or even outright demands of society. It is noticing these changes, what causes them, and in some cases, even being a small part of them that makes political science so interesting to me.”
What are the benefits of online learning?
“I think the biggest one is making education actually possible for many people. I speak with so many students who would not be able to get a college education if they had to earn the degree in person because of health, family, work, military commitments and other reasons. Because online degrees allow flexibility with when to study, it makes getting a degree possible.”
How do you build a genuine connection with students who, in many cases, you’ll never meet in person?
“The best way to build a genuine connection is to be genuine when speaking with someone. I really do enjoy helping students and hope this comes across in all my interactions. Limited time does not always permit it, but I try to have at least a small bit of each appointment conversation focus on non-academic matters. I also try to share a little bit about my life when it is appropriate.”
How have you evolved as an advisor since you began working with students online?
“I have been advising students for about 20 years, and technology has changed tremendously in this timeframe. My first appointments with online students relied exclusively on verbally explaining graduation requirements by phone. This was possible, but the pace was plodding and so much less ground could be covered than in a comparable face-to-face appointment where we could see the same documents. Now, computer programs allow me to share what I see on my screen with my students no matter where they are, and so much more can be covered in much greater depth.”
What’s one piece of advice you would like to give to students?
“Talk with your instructors in their virtual office hours. It shows that you care about the class material and your academic performance. Go over returned assignments with them both to get correct answers for cumulative finals and to learn what types of information they consider important – it will make future studying more effective. Also, if graduate or law school is in your future plans, office hour conversations will usually result in better recommendation letters.”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“Oregon provides great opportunities for hiking and camping. I attend plays on campus and watch movies. I read a lot and greatly enjoy board and role-playing games. It is also incredibly difficult to pry me away from the television for any normal human interactions during the NCAA basketball tournament. Although I try to suppress my inner geek, it does take over when discussing Lord of the Rings and the Muppets.”