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Advisor Interview: Carol Randel, College of Liberal Arts

Carol Randel and family

Our advising community is rich with a diverse and eclectic population. In each issue of Advising Matters we will “get to know” an experienced advisor in our advising community. This issue features Carol Randel, an academic advisor in Political Science and winner of the 2005 College of Liberal Arts Earl B. Notestine Award for Professional Excellence and the 2007 Purdue University Student Government Excellence in Advising Award. The interview was conducted by Sheila Hurt.

How did you get into Academic Advising as a profession?

After I graduated from Ball State University’s Masters Program in Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education in 1977 (wow, that’s been awhile!), I applied for a counseling position in the HSSE (that’s the old CLA) Counseling Office to advise communication students. It seemed appropriate since I had graduated from Purdue’s Communication Department. To be honest, at the time I didn’t understand the critical role of advising in both the life of the student and the university, but it was definitely in line with my professional interests. (It also was a student development position where I didn’t have to live “in residence”.) Eventually I changed to a General Counselor for HSSE, and then “stopped out” of advising from June 1987 to 1998 to raise my sons. In 1998 I returned to CLA as a part time advisor for Political Science and pre-law students, and then switched to full time in 2005. I have always enjoyed working for CLA because their developmental advising philosophy matches my own professional preference and I have loved the collegiality of my fellow CLA advisors and administrators through the years.

Tell us about the early days of PACADA . . . How did the group form? Did you foresee it developing like it has?

With regard to the early days of PACADA, you need to understand that, as a founding member, I was really part of the Pre-PACADA days from 1980 up to 1987 when it was in its embryonic stages. During my initial years at Purdue as an advisor (back in the day!), there was a notable lack of “professional” involvement available to me as a new student development professional. My student services program at BSU was extremely active in professional groups such as ACPA, NASPA, etc. and my former classmates across the country were still involved with these groups, but no one in my new job seemed even remotely interested in this possibility. We were required to have a master’s degree in student services to be an advisor, but then there was very little professional encouragement. In retrospect, the advising community seemed to reside both on the “outskirts” of campus student services and also on the fringes of the academic community as well. Regardless, I was very involved around campus and enjoyed many relationships with my peers in admissions, other advising offices, and the Dean of Students, but I basically had forged these relationships on my own initiative.

It was Nancy Friedersdorf (who I would call the PACADA matriarch), from the Dean of Students Office, who actively recognized the value of the advising community and responded to the need for some professional development. She organized some workshops for advisors that eventually evolved into an “Academic Advisor’s Forum,” and I jumped on the bandwagon. Several of us practicing advisors, who were excited about the increased interest, momentum and possibilities that were emerging among advisors, formed an “ad hoc” committee to support these forums. Finally, Alan Welch and Rex Fodrea became the catalysts for moving a fledgling idea to the next level and that is when we met on April 1, 1987 to start the process of formalizing an organization that would soon become PACADA. For me, it was extremely fulfilling to be a part of this visionary group and to help enhance the advising role and presence on Purdue’s campus.

The hard work phase of implementing PACADA was just beginning when I “stopped out” of Purdue from June 1987 to 1998. People like Glenda Crippen, Barb Doster, John Bothel, Alan Welch, and Rex Fodrea were the real pillars of the actual “birth” of PACADA at Purdue and we all owe a tremendous debt of professional gratitude to these wonderful colleagues.

When I returned in September 1998, I attended the PACADA Fall retreat and was proud to see how PACADA had become such an established and involved community on campus. Many of my former colleagues were still very hard at work and there was a strong group of up-and-coming advisors. As a “semi-active” member (I was still part time and raising kids), it was nice to see PACADA as an active and respected partner in campus issues, a provider of advisor professional recognition, membership presenting at regional and national conventions, and creating on-campus professional development events.

Besides PACADA, how has advising changed since you first started (for better or for worse)?

When I started at Purdue, I shared an office with another advisor. I had a small table and two chairs. There was one phone in our file room for ALL the advisors (about 30) and our student enrollment was very similar to today. We filled out OpScan sheets with student course requirements. Somehow we made it work. Just as I was leaving in 1987, we had one computer for the advisors to check the student registration errors.

In 1998, all of us had a computer for registration purposes, and shortly thereafter, we changed to the internet-based system. (This is all fairly recent.) I now have my own private office (my very own phone) and a computer with two screens and a whole lot more information to process. WOW!

I believe that over time, advising has dramatically improved as a profession and as a critical player on Purdue’s campus. There is an accessible network of advisors that we can draw upon to resolve problems. There has been a move from faculty advisement to professional advisors. I see a closer working relationship with faculty and student services to assist with the mechanics of curriculum implementation and degree requirement completion. There is still more to do to elevate the advising community within the university and I hope that PACADA will continue to be a large part of this advocacy.

What is your favorite part of your job?

1. Advising my students.

I have loved being an academic advisor. It has given me great personal career satisfaction. It is a place where my own skills and gifts can come together to make a positive difference in someone’s life. To share a couple rewards of my career, I am privileged to have two of my former students as colleagues in student services on this campus and I am currently working with a former student who hopes to begin her student services program at Loyola in the spring. One of my former students was an Old Master and one just returned to be an “LA Influential.” They amaze me.

2. Being in a good work environment.

For me, CLA has always been a wonderful and dynamic office. In 2000, I became the “Social Committee Chairperson” and find this to be one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. My committee is focused on keeping apprised of and responding to the “happenings” in our office. We love to recognize achievement, celebrate important moments, and encourage one another to keep going in the extremely busy times. We also comfort and encourage each other when life is difficult. There are usually 40 to 50 “happenings,” both large and small, throughout the year.

What is some advice you frequently give your advisees?

What I tell my students:

  1. It’s all in the planning. How can you maximize your Purdue Experience to meet your personal goals?
  2. If you don’t set goals you won’t reach them.
  3. Your educational/career goals are great, but you are the only one who can insure that they are accomplished. Actively resist those things that would prevent you from achieving them.
  4. There is always another option…(to those who have hit a bump in the road).
  5. There needs to be somebody else in this office excited about this plan besides me. (Ha!)

Do they listen?

I am very forthright and conversational with my students to help them understand the importance of their college experience and for the most part, they hear me. They know that I care about them even when the conversation is difficult.

As a seasoned advisor, tell us something you think all advisors should know.

We touch a student’s life EVERYTIME we meet with them. One of our “LA Influentials” speakers recently said that one of the greatest disadvantages to an individual is to not get the “right guidance.” We are in the business of giving the “right guidance.” Our office can be the place where it all comes together for a unique individual. We have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of our students during (and many times after) their time at Purdue. Protect your time with your students and try not to let too much crowd out the importance of your role.

How do you spend your time away from the office?

Away from the office, I am wife to Steve (my salesman) and mom to two sons, Ben (2nd year IU med student) and Eric (Financial Advisor for Edward Jones). I also watch over my 83-year-old mom to make sure she stays independent as long as she can. We are a busy family and love to snow ski, water ski/boating, golf, and eat out! I love to teach the adult Sunday School Class at my church. Our home is an annual “relay center” for Operation Christmas Child (an international Christian relief organization).

Is there anything we don’t know about you that we should?

I think that I have said enough!!! Ha!

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