Knowing Yourself is Key to Knowing Your Students

Letia Graening - Academic Advising

Letia Graening

Assistant Director for International Academic Advising
College of Letters and Science

Letia Graening leads the international advising program for students in the College of Letters and Sciences, and is an active liaison with advisors from all four colleges as well as staff from Global Affairs, Services for International Students and Scholars, and the Summer Start program to develop international programming that positively impacts UC Davis students.

While she has contributed to a number of campuswide advising initiatives, one of the most meaningful for her is the Developing Deeper Advising Relationships training series, or DDAR.

Graening participated in the first-ever DDAR training, piloted in 2015 by Academic Advising Executive Director Brett McFarlane and a team of veteran advisors, who developed the course using social justice as a basis for how advisors can connect with students. Prior to that,

The feedback from was positive, she says, and “From there we came together, added a workshop, and rolled it out as a four-part campuswide staff development series that is required for [advising] staff interacting with students.”

The expanded training program immerses advisor in social justice equity, inclusion, and understanding understanding power, privilege as they relate to advising.

It was much more powerful to connect with other advisors through talking about social justice, power, privilege, race, who I am as a person, my own background in terms of how I was socialized... All those themes are really important because that’s how advisors get to empathy, equity, the understanding that the student is not just grades, it’s different experiences. If I know that about myself, I can see that in my students.

Before the Office of Academic Advising was established, the advisor training series was led by external presenters. “What we’ve been able to do through this training and with [Vice Provost and Dean] Carolyn [Thomas]’s support is to say we have the understanding to lead our own program. Here’s what we think of is a good foundation – social justice – and bring it to fruition. Using the advising expertise and resources we already have on this campus to make it homegrown makes it more powerful.”

Campuswide Advising Programming

The campus Office of Academic Advising was established in Undergraduate Education in 2012 to bring advisors from all of the colleges together to collaborate on campuswide advising goals, tools, and professional development.The DDAR training  is one example of how the campuswide office supports UC Davis students no matter which college they’re in.

“International programming is another great example,” Graening says. “We’re always trying to think of new ways to support our students. Working with UE helps to put these initiatives in place. We as advisors could talk about ideas and implement them in different ways, but having it run through one office that can see the broader  applications for ideas that can impact students throughout campus, and to find and generate buy-in at the leadership level -- that's what makes things happen."

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