By Laura Roberts
Seven years ago Jeanine Gibson began working at Housatonic Community College as a HealthCare academic advisor under a HealthCaReerx Academy grant. Her prior experiences in college admissions for the American University of Antigua and the College of New Rochelle opened her eyes to the joys of interacting directly with students, and when the opportunity to work at Housatonic came along, she knew she was ready for a change.
“With advising, the pressure of making numbers to get more students is not as intense as it is being an Admissions Counselor for a proprietary institution. I enjoy spending more time with the students, listening to them, learning their stories and facilitating their growth,” said Gibson.
“I love advising, I feel like academic advising is the engine,” she continued. “If students don’t take the right courses, or know how to navigate resources available outside of the classroom, they will face a much harder time accomplishing their academic goals. I see this role as teaching, but in a different capacity, and I love to see the transformation in a student, I’m very passionate about it.”
In her position as Acting Director of Academic Advising and Student Retention, Gibson has the opportunity to orchestrate how to help students by removing barriers and changing how people view the department.
“The roles we play here are way beyond picking classes. We really function as a central office, teaching students systems outside the classroom, such as understanding the purpose of various departments such as career services, financial aid, and the registrar. To do this well, we need more structure and systems in place to be able to have the time to carry out holistic advising services and see our students to success. We’re working on that.”
The structure, Gibson explains, will help the advisors to comfortably balance their responsibilities and grow. The job can be demanding operating as a main hub of the college.
Gibson has some key ideas to boost student retention, including adding more workshops and events to make students feel more comfortable and engaged in the office. An advising open house is planned for October 1st, and a youth homelessness awareness day is on the horizon for the future as well. Current students are often tapped for ideas and input into what will resonate with their peers.
“We all understand that retaining students helps the bottom line, but remaining grounded in our true purpose - which is creating an environment conducive to real student success whether it be graduating or getting a job to sustain a healthy living - will naturally grow our retention rates. Showing others how much we care in what we do and how we do this will make a difference and encourage others to invest in a Housatonic education to reach their own goals. I hope to see a cycle of success, starting with one student, then a family and eventually completely transforming an entire community.”
When she’s not working, this Bronx native enjoys seeing Broadway plays, and conquering her list of brunch spots. She credits her connection to her West Indian culture as a driving force in her approach to life – one filled with structure, grit and optimism.