Editor's Note: This is part 13 in the Iowa State Daily’s “Speaking Success” series.
This week's Academic Success Center tips
My name is Elisa Chau and I am a Peer Coach for the Academic Success Center. I am currently a Senior at Iowa State majoring in Management Information Systems. The first week of school is always a little chaotic! Let’s talk about a couple of tips I’ve picked up throughout the years.
The first thing I like to do in the beginning of the semester is to get organized. I am an avid Google Calendar user, I put everything on it! It’s really important to take some time during the first few weeks of school to create a schedule or fill out a planner. You can use a Google/Outlook calendar or use a physical planner, whatever you prefer. This can help you figure out when you have class, work, other commitments, and free time. In addition, I like to mark when I have exams, quizzes, projects, and other big due dates. Using a calendar helps me see what each week will look like. From there, I can use my leftover availability to set aside time to do my homework or use it as free time.
The second tip I would recommend is trying out the study cycle. It’s a 5-step approach that is designed to help students become more effective learners. It focuses on studying being an ongoing process versus something you do right before an exam. Check out the infographic to learn more about the study cycle and how you can implement it into your academic life.
It's really important to start building new habits as the semester kicks off. Staying organized and changing the way you approach studying can help you have a successful semester. Plan time each week to update your schedule so you can get a good idea of what you need to be doing for each week. Try out the study cycle as you attend your lectures and begin your first couple weeks of school.
This week's adviser is Sarah Bennett-George, she/her/hers, who is originally from Ankeny, Iowa.
How would you introduce yourself?
My name is Sarah Bennett-George, and I’m a faculty member at Iowa State University. I wear a lot of different hats in my job, including serving as an Academic Advisor and Co-Program Director for Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. Probably my favorite part of my job is serving as the Faculty Advisor for The Fashion Show. I am really lucky to have a job where I get to work with truly amazing students and no two days are ever the same.
How many years have you worked at Iowa State?
I’ve been at Iowa State for 10 years now. I started in 2011, right after finishing grad school.
Why did you choose Iowa State?
I’ve been a Cyclone my whole life! I’m a 3rd generation ISU student, so the choice to come here for school was easy. Coming here for a career was, frankly, a really lucky opportunity that kind of fell in my lap! I couldn’t believe that I was offered a job right out of grad school that let me stay at Iowa State. I still pinch myself sometimes when I stop to consider how cool it is that I work here!
How would you explain your job to someone who doesn’t know what it is?
This is a tricky question, because I think a lot of people don’t realize that most faculty do a lot of different things. I teach classes, advise students, serve on committees, manage projects, and send a LOT of emails. Everyone imagines college professors like Hollywood shows us – teaching in front of giant lecture halls. I like that part of my job, but it’s really only a small part of it. I spend a lot of time preparing for teaching my classes and thinking about how I can best prepare my students to be successful while they’re in college and in their lives after college.
What is something you never thought you would do in your job?
Most of it, if I’m being honest. When I started, my job was only to teach apparel design courses. I had no idea that, 10 years later, the biggest part of my job would be The Fashion Show or that I would be serving on University-wide committees. I think this is a great story, though, that is good to talk about. There’s so much pressure when you’re in college to make a decision about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, but the reality is that your career is a constantly changing and evolving thing. Look for and be open to new opportunities, even if they’re scary. As you move through your career, you’ll learn a lot about what you love doing and what you don’t, and be ready to take opportunities that help you move more towards those things you’re really excited about.
What is something you want people to know about your job?
Faculty are experts in their field, but that doesn’t mean they know everything. Most of us chose this career because we love learning, but being open to learning means admitting that that there are things you don’t know. I feel totally comfortable telling a student when I don’t have the answer to the question, but I always try to follow that up by finding the answer OR helping them find the answer.
What is something you want your advisees to know about your job?
Academic advising is very rewarding but also very emotionally taxing work. We help students through all of the phases of their college experiences. This means getting to celebrate the high points like making the Dean’s List or graduation, but it also means offering support through the low points like mental health or academic struggles. The past year has been more challenging than any other year of my career in this respect. I’ve learned a lot about how myself and my limits. I want to continue to be that support system for my students, which means doing more to care for my own mental health, also.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with students, no question! The older I get, the more I love working with college students. When I hear people start sentences complaining about, “Kids these days…,” my gut reaction is always, “You clearly don’t actually know kids these days, because they’re incredible.” Our world is facing a lot of pretty major challenges, and working with college students gives me a lot of hope that humanity can rise to the challenge.
What advice do you have for students?
Don’t be so hard on yourselves. Social media has made life so much more complicated than when I was your age, and I wish I could tell you all to just cut yourselves some slack. There’s a lot of dialogue about unrealistic ideals for our bodies, but social media encourages such unrealistic ideals for our lives. Remember that no one is showing their average, normal, day-to-day lives on social media. They’re showing only the best, most picturesque moments, which has created an arms race for achievement. It’s okay if your first job isn’t your dream job, or your first apartment doesn’t look like it was designed by Joanna Gaines. Work on building a life that you love, even if that life doesn’t look like what social media tells you it should look like. There’s enough pressure in life without worrying about whether or not it lives up to everyone else’s expectations.
What hobbies do you have?
I love quilting. It’s a meditative experience for me because of the repetition and geometry of it. Life will always be messy, but I can always find a little taste of order in the chaos when I’m quilting.
Do you have any pets or a favorite animal?
I have two dogs named Bourbon and Bacon. They’re 10-year old mutts that we rescued as littermates when they were puppies. They have LOVED having me home more during COVID-19, and it’s going to be rough for them when Mom goes back to working on campus full-time!
Favorite place to eat, hangout, or work beyond campus?
I worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years through college and grad school, so I love going out to eat. I worked at The Café for a few years, and it is still one of my favorite restaurants to this day. This summer, I’ve loved going to Lua Brewing in Des Moines, where I live. Their sour beers are delicious, and they have an amazing patio. It’s nice to have a place to go that gets me out of the house and still makes me feel like I’m making safe choices during COVID-19.