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Bustos-Rios and Olivarez

Bonnie Bustos-Rios refers to herself as a “professional suggestion-maker.” Laura Olivarez considers herself a “tour guide for academics.” Both were recently honored for their unique skill sets with a Best of UAC Symposium 2017 award at the University Advisors and Counselors (UAC) Symposium at Texas A&M University. 

Bustos-Rios and Olivarez are general engineering advisors, assisting freshman engineering students as they embark on their collegiate careers. From assisting them as they select a major to connecting them to the resources they need to succeed, these advisors have found an innovative way to serve the nearly 4,000 freshman engineering students at Texas A&M— by advising them virtually via the video chat service, WebEx. 

The advisors’ presentation — “Tales from the Cube: Creating a Virtual Advising Space” — was well attended during the UAC symposium. General engineering advisors at Texas A&M have found much success with virtual advising, and it’s a trend that might catch on at other universities.

“We are truly here to meet students where they are,” Bustos-Rios said. “We recognize they are busy and spend much of their time online. Their online time is best used when the exact information they need is distributed in an engaging way in a short period of time.”

By initially advising students virtually, general engineering advisors can help remove unnecessary barriers that may stand in the way of student success.

“We don’t want a face-to-face meeting or a large in-person group advising session to interfere with their already busy class schedule, tutoring, supplemental instruction or extra and co-curricular activities,” Bustos-Rios said. “Virtual advising sessions serve as good introductory events, which help them prepare for face-to-face meetings with us.”

After meeting with students via video chat, general engineering advisors have found they can have more effective, fruitful advising sessions during their in-person appointments.

“I love to interact with students and get them connected to the right resources or show them all the great opportunities our college has to offer,” Olivarez said, adding that virtual advising is just one more way for her to do her job effectively. “They grow so much while attending college, and seeing how they change from young eager freshmen to confident Aggie engineers makes me proud of our engineering program and the part I play.”

Olivarez and Bustos-Rios have also presented at the Texas Academic Advisor Network Conference, the University Advisors and Counselors Symposium, the 2017 NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising and the 2017 Teaching with Technology Conference. They will present at the Partnering with Institutions on a Vision for Engineering Transfer Student Success Conference in April.