Tara Diebold, left, a senior from Branson, is one of the students Larry Aslin advises in the communication disorders program.
Advising Brings Honors: Personal Attention for Students Top Priority for Instructor
Advising students is more than checking boxes on a form or signing a class schedule.
Granted, those are vital aspects of advising but paying attention to the whole student and offering assistance on all levels can make a significant impact on a student's college experience.
That's what Larry Aslin believes, and the instructor of communication disorders must be doing a lot right considering he won three awards for academic advising.
"Mr. Aslin expects nothing but the best from his students and wants to help them achieve this," Jennifer Ricketts, an undergraduate majoring in communication disorders, wrote in a letter of nomination. "He makes sure students are meeting requirements on time and to the best of their ability. Not only is he a great teacher, getting students involved in class, but he makes you feel part of the CDIS family."
A faculty member who advises students may be the person who most effectively conveys the institution's concern about whether a student will be successful in school.
"Advisers put the personal touch on the university," Aslin said. "Advising is so important to a student's success. Advisers extend their hand and offer a welcoming smile to students entering the university environment. That friendly attitude can set the tone for the university experience."
For the 2008-2009 academic year, Aslin won not only the advising awards handed out by the College of Education and Health Professions and the University of Arkansas but also a national award. The National Academic Advising Association bestowed its award for outstanding academic advising by a faculty member on Aslin.
Aslin advises all undergraduates, a total of 142 students in the past academic year, in the communication disorders program. He also directs the university's Speech and Hearing Clinic, in which undergraduate and graduate students receive clinical experience. He serves as the college's representative on the University of Arkansas Advising Council. He is also the representative to the college undergraduate advising council consisting of representatives from the undergraduate programs in the college and the director of the Boyer Center for Student Services, which is the college's advising center.
D Distractions Eliminate all distractions that will take your attention from your student advisee including telephone calls, busy work and others entering your office. Avoid glancing at your wristwatch.
V Value Your student advisee is a person of worth. Place great value on them.
I Inquire Ask to be told. Seek out what they are really saying on an informational as well as an emotional level.
S Share Readily give them the information they seek and your insights. Truthfully answer or acknowledge that you will need to find the answers to their questions.
O Organize Put the topics of your discussion in a working order. Take notes as you listen.
R Resolve Decide on a plan of action. Write it down for the advisee to ake away from your meeting.
Source: Larry Aslin
In the early 1970s, with an undergraduate degree in speech and dramatic arts, Aslin, a Missouri native, was considering a career in radio and television production until he spent a summer working as a youth camp counselor.
"I enjoyed being around the kids and seeing them learn new skills," he recalled. "That summer sparked my interest in teaching. When I went back to the University of Missouri at Columbia, I looked for something I could do to use my communication skills while pursuing teaching."
In the first two years after he earned a master's degree in speech pathology-audiology, Aslin worked for the state of Illinois as a speech pathologist, helping people of all ages who had severe and profound handicaps. Then, he moved to northwest Arkansas. He took a job conducting needs assessments for schools in Benton County.
Aslin joined the University of Arkansas faculty in the fall of 1975 and became director of the program's Speech and Hearing Clinic in 1979. Every graduate course in the program includes a clinical component in which students work with clients who attend the university clinic under the supervision of faculty members.
About eight years ago, when a faculty member who did the lion's share of advising left the university, Aslin expressed interest in stepping into the role of primary adviser for the program.
"I wanted to be more involved in the students' academic program," he said. "I was already involved in the clinical program.
"My only experience with advising was as a student myself and that wasn't good," Aslin continued. "A person in an office signed your schedule that you had put together. I think that's the history of advising at a lot of universities – totally impersonal, totally disconnected."
Aslin started by poring over the catalog of studies. He developed a degree checksheet so that students knew exactly what they needed to take in order to graduate, and he made having a degree check done mandatory.
"It helps students understand their degree program and gives them closure to their undergraduate accomplishments and confidence when applying to graduate school," he said.
Aslin relied on the expertise of the Boyer Center for Student Services. Then, one day, he got a call from a former director of the center.
"She asked me several questions – did I know about this, what was I going to do about that? I had no idea and she actually laughed at me. So, I decided, ‘I better know this stuff.' I started to see what the Boyer Center and the university had to offer for adviser training. I took workshops and attended a meeting of the National Academic Advising Association.
"Diana McGruder and Barbara Goodman are my sidekicks," he continued, referring to an academic adviser and director of the Boyer Center, respectively. "They are more than willing to help a faculty member who is interested in learning the system in order to improve the advising process."
Start to Finish
Aslin meets high school students interested in the communication disorders program when they visit campus. He carefully goes over the program requirements with them and their parents. He teaches a Freshman Year Experience class, which has students interested in all majors in the college.
"I strongly encourage all students to take an active role in their academic program, whatever it is," Aslin said. "I tell them to make contact with their faculty members and advisers, make themselves known, don't rely on someone else to keep track of their progress."
Students apply to the communication disorders program in the second semester of their sophomore year. Aslin meets with them then, and, if they are admitted, each semester after that.
"They're comfortable coming here with a lot of issues," he said. "One student came to me for advice on when she and her husband should have a child to interfere least with her classes and plans for graduate school. So, we calculated what time would be best.
"Students also come to me with faculty problems. I encourage them go to the faculty member first to discuss and hopefully resolve the issue. Students also talk to me about personal and financial problems. It can be tough trying to juggle the stress of school and work. I usually have a full box of Kleenex on my desk."
The plaques and awards aren't the end goal for Aslin.
"I get postcards from all over the world, and students call and e-mail, too," he said. "They say they feel so prepared, way ahead of students from other colleges, when they get to grad school. Some will relate how their training qualified them for exceptional job placements. That's what is important. That's putting students first."