Online Student Advisor gets up close and personal with her students
As a Student Advisor for SJVC Online students, Krystel Vitug is responsible for supporting and counseling students committed to an SJVC distance learning program.
“I make sure that they are on course in their class, staying up on their assignments and exams and on track for graduation,” says Krystel. “If they are falling behind, I offer to connect them with their instructor, tutor them – if it is something I am familiar with – or provide other resources to get them back on point.”
Sometimes the obstacles students are struggling with are very personal, take a lot out of them emotionally, or make them feel totally inadequate to complete the educational course they so optimistically began.
“We get to know each other on very personal levels,” says Krystel. “I feel like we become friends or family, even. Some of them have me on their speed dial. I do enjoy that.”
This level of closeness was a little bit of a shock to Krystel when she first stepped into this role nine months ago. She started out with SJVC as a Tuition Planner and primarily interacted with students at the beginning of their enrollment process.
That has changed dramatically. “As Student Advisor, I have the students throughout the duration of their programs – from the very beginning to the end, which is graduation,” says Krystel. “I get to be part of their whole journey, essentially.”
She welcomes the deeper involvement in student lives. “It was a big eye-opener to go from Tuition Planner to Advisor,” says Krystel. “It is a lot of responsibility, but very welcomed. Working with students here has shown me how much patience I do have and, essentially, my interest to help others.”
Krystel’s students sense her commitment to their success and appreciate her devotion. “She goes beyond what her job is as my Student Advisor,” says Betsy Vasquez, Medical Billing and Coding program student. “She motivated me to boost all my grades up and work hard on my homework.”
Krystel understands that some Online students might struggle with the discipline required for distance learning. “I want to make sure that they are transitioning to distance learning comfortably,” she says. “I am sensitive to those new to the online world and give them more hands-on coaching.”
Krystel knows what it is like to start something unfamiliar. When she transitioned from Tuition Planner to Student Advisor her relationship to students changed dramatically. “The first three months were information overload, just taking everything in,” she recalls. “I remember being extremely nervous, but I got in the groove and I’ve made it my own.”
Krystel credits a lot of her success with students to the tight teamwork of the student support department. “I’m part of a great team, six advisors total; and we work with the Dean of Student Services. We feed off each other’s energy, and we learn from each other’s advising style. We are here to save those students who might not be doing well, keep them motivated and remind them why they started.”
“Just keep going,” she encourages them. “When you get knocked down, you just kind of keep going.”
It is a message that Krystel heard a lot growing up from her father. “Whenever I’m at a crossroad, it is definitely his voice that I hear. He tells me, ‘Just follow your heart; stop considering the what-ifs.’” Her dad, Edwin, is retired Air Force and has always had that role in her life. “My dad is my best friend, but would not tell him that because his head might get too big!”
Krystel balances the intensity and responsibility of her Student Advisor position with something she loves. “I’m actually a Polynesian dancer; that’s what I do to center myself again,” she says. Krystel received the first session of lessons as a Christmas gift seven years ago, and now performs professionally on weekends and after work. “We are the girls that show up at luaus!”
Krystel also takes a lot of pleasure in the guidance she gives her students. “My goal is for them to accomplish their goals,” she says. “You build on a relationship beyond student-advisor, and it’s very important to me that they trust you to build upon that relationship.”
So far as Krystel is concerned, if her students need a friend, they will find one in her.