Eliza Scholl on Honors Advising

January 7, 2020
UHP student Eliza Scholl enjoys cookies and milk at the Minnesota State Fair
My Honors Advisor says, I see you. This is not easy. You're doing well. And you have options.

By Eliza Scholl, UHP Student; Bachelor of Individualized Study, Class of 2023.

I graduated high school in Madison, WI in 2017, then moved to Milwaukee. I started working for City Year, an AmeriCorps organization, serving 50+ hours a week in a bilingual public middle school classroom. I lived on my own, paid my rent, did all my own grocery shopping and cooking, bussed to the laundromat on weekends. In short, I had to learn - by trial and error - how to operate as an adult pretty much off the bat. 

It wasn't all smooth at first. I didn't know you had to bring detergent with you to the laundromat. So the first time I went, I had to walk to Walgreens carrying my basket of dirty clothes to go buy detergent. During the week, I would go to the corner store with a couple dollars and try to convince them to trade me quarters for bills. More than once, I locked myself out of my apartment. Every time I cooked, the smoke detector would start wailing. But I figured things out. I put a chair in the kitchen to stand on so I could pop the smoke detector out of the ceiling before I cooked dinner. I established a morning routine so that I could sleep in until 5:37am - just 13 minutes before I needed to walk out the door to catch my bus to work. At work, I was given a lot of responsibility in my classroom. When my partner teacher was sick, I would teach 7th grade all day.

After 2 years of operating and learning in this intense environment, starting college felt like a huge step backwards to me. Living in a dorm as a 20-year-old surrounded by 18-year-olds, most of whom are on their own for the first time, can make it tough to connect to first-year peers. Essentially, you're coming in more like a transfer student than a typical first-year, but without the credits to show for your experiences. Reading dense papers about theoretical academic concepts made me wonder what I was doing here. I found that my attention span was shorter than that of my peers - I was used to running around a classroom all day and working with 13-year-olds, who aren’t known for long attention spans either. I didn't remember how to sit still, and found myself feeling antsy and combative in the classroom. What I love is working with students and families from under-resourced communities. I prefer work to school. I knew I needed to find ways to maximize the time I spent doing “community engagement” in Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

My Honors Advisor has been a strong reminder for me that not all superheroes wear capes. She told me all about the Community Engagement Scholars Program and HECUA off-campus study programs, about study-abroad opportunities and classes grounded in community work. When she hears about an opportunity on campus that makes her think of me, she emails me about it. She listens to my frustrations and successes, advocates for me, and gives me constructive feedback. She's my advisor, but also a mentor. She sees me as a person. I'm one semester into school, but no longer fantasizing about finishing as soon as possible. My Honors Advisor says, I see you. This is not easy. You're doing well. And you have options.

Ultimately, I see that type of advising as grounded in a resilience approach. It’s empowering, and it makes me go seek out resources around campus -- meeting with Basanti Miller at CESP, with Liza Gorman-Baer from HECUA, with folks at the National Student Exchange to talk about potentially studying in Puerto Rico, meeting people at the study abroad center. Now I’m thinking about doing a BIS major so I can make space for all the things I’m interested in and really tailor my academic experience to those interests. I love the U. I love how big it is. I love feeling anonymous but also connected to people. I really see advisors as a way to help make the school feel small while still enjoying the privilege of so many opportunities, resources, events, and perspectives. A lot of students who do a gap year (or two) are pretty self-directed. We just need you to help steer us towards cool stuff.

The biggest thing I want to communicate is that my Honors Advisor has done three major things here:

  • She got to know me, my interests, and how the past two years have informed my worldview.
  • She knows the resources and opportunities available at the U really well.
  • She connected me to them.

Ann Masten, the professor for my recent Honors Seminar, defines resilience as the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully. My Honors Advisor is a big part of that system and adaptation for me.