What do I do as a professional?

If you’ve read my profile here in the Service Professionals Network (SPN), you probably have an idea of what I offer professionally, but perhaps more detail would help.

(1) When I was an undergraduate student at a university many years ago, the people students were assigned to consult for academic advice were faculty members who specialized in academics, and for career advice it was faculty members who specialized in preparing for post-graduate employment.

After later earning my graduate degree (at a different university) and spending time in the working world of engineering, almost all of my work for many years was teaching mathematics in community colleges and at a university (neither of the two above).

I then left that part of academia to begin working at another university (different from the above three) as an academic advisor to undergraduate and graduate students in mathematics. Upon entering that role, I was shocked to find that academic advising in higher education had changed a lot over the years. In my department, for example, was one faculty member assigned to advise 2200+ students, a ridiculously high student-to-faculty ratio. In practice, few students would ever visit that professor for advice and instead customarily came to one of my colleagues or me.

While I had a background of relevant education, years of teaching in the subject, and industrial work involving the subject that enabled me to comfortably help students with just about any academic problem and planning for their careers, my colleagues in advising in the department did not. Few people on that university campus in academic advising roles had degrees in the subjects in which they were advising students. Among those who did have relevant education, few had worked in industry related to that field or at all. How, then, were these people assigned to advise students? 

Over time, the answer to that question became obvious to me. I worked under a university administration that would tell prospective students (and parents) how much they cared about students. (The campus had a chancellor who used to boast that the institution was “student-centered”. The dishonesty behind that statement is a story of its own.) The truth, however, was that if administrations in higher education really cared about students, they would not have turned their campuses into what so many of them are today with classes typically having hundreds of students enrolled and campus advisers who are unqualified to advise in their subjects.

This brings me to my current work. I no longer am employed by any educational institution. Instead, I independently offer professional-grade information and advice to students nationwide on just about anything academic and on career planning. I also welcome talking to parents who wish to consult with me. Parents send their kids to university with the assumption that these institutions will essentially look after their daughters and sons, protect them, guide them, and work for their best interests. Unfortunately, not much of that is true in reality. Students attend university expecting to be told what to do, when the truth is there is plenty in addition to taking courses that every student should be doing starting in their first year of university, but no one tells them to.

Many advisors are nice people with good intentions. However, those characteristics need to be matched with backgrounds in education and employment that makes them fit to academically advise students. A person who lacks that training is unqualified to be giving anything beyond basic information and elementary advice. A true adviser should be an expert in her/his specialty. (Would you consult someone for professional advice on something who lacked expertise in it?)  Additionally, campus advisers are expected to say what administrators want them to, and that may or may not be what students need to know. They are also expected to spend minimal time with students.

What I offer is different. I want students (and parents) to know the truth, and that is what they get from me. They also get the perspective of someone who has held several of the key academic roles in a university — undergraduate student, graduate student, teaching assistant, research assistant, faculty member, and adviser — and worked in industry. I also bring three years of post-graduate study of psychology which helps me when analyzing and seeking to understand each student and her/his situation. My objective is to help every student find the best path in education and a career for her/him and handle problems that arise along the way.

There is a lot that students (and parents) need to know (including how to effectively learn, retain information, study, and perform on assignments and tests) that our educational system rarely if ever teaches, but I do. 

The subjects I specialize in are engineering, mathematics, and psychology, though I have ample information and advice for students in other majors and for those who are not yet sure what educational direction to go in. My advice is beneficial for students from high school through undergraduate school to graduate school.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you think I may be of help to you or someone you know. I can be reached via message here in the SPN or in LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jay-s-586500225/ or via email at treasureoflife at outlook.com.

Thanks for reading!

(The second area of what I what I offer professionally is for a future posting.)

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