Professor Mihyun Kim is the Underwood Division’s academic advisor in charge of International Studies, Political Science and International Relations, Economics, and Comparative Literature and Culture majors. Professor Kim is currently co-writing a book on academic advising. The UIC Academic Advising System started in the summer of 2012. As UIC grew larger, the academic advising program, formerly headed by devoted professors of the Common Curriculum, transformed into one led by professional academic advisors.
Could you tell the readers about yourself?
When the Academic Advising System was first established in UIC, I had the honor of becoming one of UIC’s first academic advisors. I think the reason I decided to pursue a career as an academic advisor was due to the help I’ve received from the academic advising program during my years studying overseas. Throughout my college life, it was very difficult for me to adapt to my major and school life. But there was virtually no professional help or advice offered on the part of my professors, and had to struggle alone. However, when I for the first time received help from the academic advising program while studying abroad, I was able to map out my academic plan, adapt to school life, and prepare for my life after graduation—this memorable experience I had with academic advising is probably what drew me to the work.
I am grateful for my life as an academic advisor in UIC. I am able to meet UIC students who are the world’s best and brightest, and are always full of personality. As an educator, it is rewarding to witness students grow by helping the students themselves understand the vision of UIC education to create a successful college life, and help them utilize UIC’s diverse university resources to suit their individual goals.
Initially, it was difficult to provide the right advice to the students’ questions. Especially because I had to conceive an answer while listening to the students’ concerns, at times I missed several verbal and nonverbal cues. But after seven years, I am more than familiar with the information and knowledge and was able to create my own style of academic advising. I try to see the individual characteristics and educational needs of the student, then determine the amount of information I need to provide, as well as how I should present my advice.
What are some common concerns of students you can share with us?
Career advice is a topic many students approach me with. The moment you feel free from the pressures of entering college, soon you find yourself in endless competition, having to improve your resume. A lot of students don’t focus on positive concerns like who they are as a person and what they want to do. They make judgments based on external criteria like “what are my colleagues doing to prepare for their career?” or “what career does society favor?” Therefore, through various channels of academic advising (freshman seminar, career workshops, individual consultation), we help students better understand themselves, help find what (s)he wants to do in life, specify what kind of preparations are needed, and ultimately, help them lead a happy life as a member of society.
How do you try to give the best advice to students?
My direct and indirect experiences are valuable assets. Direct experiences, of course, come from my life. As for indirect experiences, I read news articles daily and 1~2 books a month. This helps me understand the changing society and empathize with the sensibilities and concerns of the younger generation. Moreover, as I am also human, my viewpoint and knowledge could be narrow. Thus I always try to have a balanced view, an open mind, and learn from my colleagues. I also realized how important my health was when I suffered from HIVD (spine disc) a few years ago. After work, I try to maintain my health by walking and taking up light exercise with my family.
What qualities and experience do you think is important to have for an academic advisor?
Some basic abilities an academic advisor should have is (1) being able to collect and utilize information and resources of the university (2) communication skills (3) empathy (4) providing opportunities that would allow the student to develop on their own (5) being ethical and cooperative (6) professional understanding of the Korean (domestic) and global education environment. It isn’t necessary that an academic advisor major education. There are many examples where educational experiences that stem from diverse majors have positive effects. Also, the most basic yet crucial qualification is good character.
What do you recommend students do to get the most out of their UIC experience?
This isn’t an easy question. I worry that a student may think whatever I say would be a “magic wand” that will undoubtedly lead them to a successful college life. UIC students find themselves having to make a lot of decisions (internship, extracurricular activities, choosing subjects and majors, career etc.). The responsibility that follows these choices isn’t light. So I hope students have the wisdom to enjoy these situations when they have to choose a path. Even if you fail, it’s meaningful. As you are still a college student, you will have many opportunities to overcome these failures. Whatever experience it may be, I encourage you to actively pursue different opportunities based on a deep understanding of yourself. If you have any questions or concerns in the process, I would very much recommend receiving the help of the academic advising program.