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Behind the scenes with Beau Baca

Liberal arts academic advisor

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Beau Baca doubles as an advisor for Ecampus students and on-campus students in Oregon State’s College of Liberal Arts. The advice he doles out is often both practical and motivational.

Learning primarily happens in a classroom, whether online or on campus, but Beau Baca’s period as a full-time instructor helped him realize that student success is aided when students come to class with a clearer vision. That’s why he transitioned to academic advising, a role he began in Oregon State’s College of Liberal Arts in February 2014. Now he dons many hats, advising both Ecampus and on-campus students and serving as a mentor in other roles as well. Beau’s time in higher education took him from California’s capital, where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Cal State-Sacramento, to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and a Ph.D. in English, back to the West Coast at Oregon State.


By Tyler Hansen
May 23, 2017

Hometown

“Colusa, California. It’s a small town in the Sacramento Valley.”

What’s a typical day for you as a liberal studies advisor?

“My advising load includes advising both Ecampus and Corvallis campus students: major advising for liberal studies students, primary advising for first-year students on campus, and general ed advising for students of all majors in the College of Liberal Arts. In addition, I coordinate the CLA’s student ambassador program and scholarship committee – so, depending on the time of year, there’s a lot going on. There’s a good mix of responding to email, having phone appointments, and in-person appointments, as well as spending time out front (in the office) doing drop-in advising.”

Why did you decide to pursue a career in student advising?

“When I was teaching full time, it seemed to me that there was a lot going on with students outside the classroom that was affecting learning and I wanted to be able to approach teaching in a more holistic way and advising seems to me like a good way to do this. Also, because I think that I really would have benefitted from having an academic advisor when I was in college.”

In 14 words or less, what do you like most about being an Ecampus advisor?

“I enjoy the students; they are interesting and motivated. There’s such a range of life experience.”

Your staff bio on the College of Liberal Arts website says you enjoy “re-enacting famous scenes in literature with (your) giant tabby cat Bruno.” Wait, what? Please explain.

“Well, that bio might be a joke that one of my co-workers played on me… but that’s not a bad idea.”

What do you consider to be the main benefits of online learning?

“Online learning meets students where they are, so to speak; it lets people be students, complete a degree, while still maintaining other parts of their identity – having a job, being a parent, living in another country, etc.”

How do you develop a genuine connection with students who, in many cases, you’ll never meet in person?

“Each student is an individual, and that’s what I try to be attentive to. Genuine connection is a two-way street (sometimes a student just wants to know how many credits they need to complete), but I try to listen to each student and to hear what’s unique about them.”

Please share a recent success story you witnessed with one of your Ecampus students.

“It’s so difficult to pick one! For so many of our students, just getting to the point in life where they’re able to resume pursuing their degree is an accomplishment. But a few of the liberal studies students I’ve been working with are graduating this year, which is great to see, and one of them has been accepted to a graduate program in counseling with a focus in art therapy.”

What’s the best piece of advice you can give students?

“First, practical: Don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to put in for your classes. Just because they’re online doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in the hours.

“Second, motivational: Make this your own. Keep in mind that you are choosing to undertake this project and don’t lose touch with what it means to you.”

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

“Reading, and maybe re-enacting scenes from literature with my cat…”

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