The CU Boulder Advising Council hosts Advisor Day each spring, and as part of that event Shelly Bacon, assistant vice provost for advising and academic services in the Office of Undergraduate Education, hosts a campus-wide Advisor of the Year Award. Two awards are given, one in the “new professional” category and one in the “experienced professional” category.
This year Dylan West of the College of Arts and Sciences was the winner in the new professional category, and Victoria Ibarra from the College of Music was the winner in the experienced professional category.
West, who currently serves as a first-year and second-year advisor for the Program in Environmental Design as well as the Environmental Studies and Geography departments, received his BA in psychology and exercise science from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and his MS in higher education administration from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.
Prior to joining CU, he worked at Iowa State University in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as the pre-med and STEM enrollment coordinator working in recruitment and retention specifically with first-year students.
West says his approach to advising is “holistic,” and that he’s known among the students in his roster as the “life advisor.”
“I’m really passionate about advising from a capacity of understanding how physical and mental health correlate together. I challenge students by asking important questions, not with the expectation that they have an answer, but to get them thinking about how we can maximize their time at CU with the campus support and programming we have to offer.”
West says he wants his students to always walk away with something more than they came for.
“Advising should not be a checklist,” West said. “It is easy for students to think of advisors as simply someone who can tell them if they are on track to graduate, or if a faculty instructor is a good fit for them.”
West says that it is his job to not only help bridge the gap of the questions they are asking with opportunities that CU provides but also to help his students critically think about how those opportunities are completing the experience they are looking for.
“I believe when they critically engage with you, they walk away with a stronger narrative and idea of how that opportunity or resource elevates their college experience.”
Ibarra, who has been a member of the College of Music staff since May 1995, directly advises the Bachelor of Arts in music students—50 to 60 of them every year. In addition to advising, Ibarra assists the associate dean for undergraduate studies with the management of undergraduate student advising, undergraduate enrollment/academic status, undergraduate music scholarships, the undergraduate studies office and serves as a liaison with other major campus offices.
“For BA and transfer students, my job is to make sure that once they’re admitted, they’re making degree progress and graduating within four years,” Ibarra said. “But there are also walk-in advisees, and every single student meets with me before they graduate.”
Ibarra says the most important thing for her is to see her students succeed.
“I love having that interaction with students. When I see them go on to become music teachers or opera singers, it fulfills me.”
More than two decades of supporting music students has given Ibarra unique insight into the challenges young musicians face.
“There are so many more individual needs for a music major: coordinating lessons, finding the right ensemble, making progress in the piano requirements and so on,” Ibarra said. “Students see an advisor every semester until they graduate, which is only required by the College of Music.”
All of the different points of contact have provided Ibarra with myriad happy memories of seeing students succeed—and even some enduring friendships.
“I still keep in touch with some of them through Facebook,” Ibarra said. “Sometimes they leave me notes or send me CDs as they make recordings. It’s neat to see where they go in their lives and know that after all these years, they still remember.”