Christopher Johnston and Paul Sirvatka
For their exceptional work with students, Christopher Johnston and Paul Sirvatka have been named College of DuPage’s Outstanding Advisors for the 2012-2013 academic year.
As recipients of this honor, they will receive a monetary award along with a personal plaque of recognition. Their selection was based upon demonstrated leadership within their respective divisions, participation in professional development opportunities, and individual comments from students on their nomination forms.
Johnston of Carol Stream is a Student Success Counselor who believes listening is the most important tool he uses in working with students. He said it’s important for counselors and advisors to leave themselves out of the equation and encourages students to define their own goals.
“Ultimately what I do is help students develop a vocabulary that allows them to clearly articulate their goals, and then I provide the information required for them to make the best possible decisions for themselves,” he said. “Our role is to provide support, information and options. It is the student’s responsibility to effectuate ‘the plan’ that we come up with.”
In a counseling relationship, Johnston said, everyone benefits. He has the satisfaction of providing a positive experience, while students receive information to better understand their situations. And in some cases, an encouraging interaction may be the only positive in their lives.
“Just having someone to listen to them and validate that what they say matters can make all the difference,” he said. “I want each student I meet with to walk away feeling understood and supported. I want them to know that they have at least one person on campus who they can come to for help. Accurate information on academics, careers, resources and transfer is just icing on the cake.”
Sirvatka of Glen Ellyn is a Professor of Meteorology who said that getting to know students well is the key to advising.
“It is from understanding their strengths and weaknesses, their struggles, their dreams and the things that matter to them that I am best able to help them with their school and career plans,” he said. “I can help them visualize their success. To see them succeed, to focus more on their strengths than their weaknesses, is very satisfying.”
Sirvatka hopes with his assistance students gain a sense of what they can accomplish and a plan for their future, both in school and beyond.
“I really hope that they walk away from our advising sessions knowing that there is someone in their corner,” he said.