Most student affairs professionals spend a lot of time advising and interacting with students. The topics we advise students on range from selecting a major and/or a career, navigating the institution, and succeeding in their academic and extra-curricular experiences. My job involves advising students on their financial aid and I initially struggled to identify my own advising style. Ironically, it was a Fine Arts Senior Seminar professor who helped me realize that the Artist Methodology I had gained as a Fine Art major could be applied to my position. The purpose of this article is to examine how an Artist Methodology can be applied to enhance advising skills.
Written by Gerardo Guzman of Florida Atlantic University.
What is an Artist Methodology?
An artist methodology is a set of methods that each person acquires throughout his/her personal and professional experiences as an artist. It is not a specific set of rules that are followed by all artists. A few select examples of methods that an artist can use include: Form, Freeform, and Realism. Artists can use a combination of methods that works best for them. For instance, I use three methods to create a piece of art and to advise my students: The Known, Observation, and Imagination.
The first step when I am working on an art piece is the Known. In other words, what do I know about the subject? Has there been a way that this subject has been successfully tackled before? If so, how can I improve upon the first piece? When advising a student, it is important to know who the subject is, what do I know about the student’s particular case and how can I improve upon their previous experience? For example, before meeting with a student I review all aspects of the student’s accounts, including academic history, financial holds, and academic holds. This allows me to be prepared to answer the student’s questions and to investigate possible solutions that may improve the student’s experience with our office and the university.
As an artist who focuses on surroundings to draw my inspiration for a piece of art, observation is a key step in my art creation process. Similarly, when meeting with students, I carefully observe not just what the students says, but how they are dressed, what they are not saying, and their non-verbal behaviors. For example, I was speaking with a student at our front counter regarding his federal aid eligibility and how his income affected it. Although I answered his immediate question, his eye contact and tone of voice told me he had other questions. As he scanned the room and lowered his voice it became clear that he was uncomfortable discussing financial issues, so I invited him to my office. Once inside the office, his tone of voice immediately changed and became positive. He could focus on my answers instead of being worried about what the other students in the lobby were thinking of him.
My imagination allows me to create worlds in my head and convey my vision on my canvas. As an advisor, I use my imagination to put myself in my students’ shoes, allowing me to be more empathetic with each student’s situation. For example, I had a former student who was going through academic difficulty his sophomore year. He was placed on financial aid warning, as he had two consecutive semesters of failing grades. Initially, I found it difficult to empathize with his situation as our interactions were only via email. Once he came into my office, however, we discussed the issues he was facing at home. This helped me further understand his situation and come up with creative solutions that allowed him to get back on track with his academic studies and he eventually graduated with academic honors.
Being a good advisor is an art form that can be challenging to learn and master, especially as a new professional. My experience with art taught me the importance of Artistic Methodology when creating new pieces. This framework also helped me to focus my advising on observing, imagining, and finding out who each student is. By sharing my approach to art and advising, my hope is that it may inspire you to create your own Artistic Methodology that is based on your experiences and education.