Kate Daley-Bailey came to Georgia as a transfer student from the University of Montana in Missoula because of the reputation of UGA’s religion department, so she knows just how crucial advisors are to a student’s success.
Now she’s paying it forward as an academic advisor in Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ Romance languages department.
“There are a lot of unwritten rules that are a part of any culture,” she said. “Advisors fill that gap and explain to students how things at UGA work. The one thing we all have in common is that we want to be helpful.”
It was a role she stumbled into along her career path. Her goal was to be a professor. After finishing her master’s degree in religious studies at UGA—she’s a Double Dawg—she taught here and at Georgia State University. She had decided against getting a doctorate and jumping into the pressures of professorship when someone suggested she’d make an excellent advisor. She reached out to Wanda Wilcox, an advisor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences who works with students in religion, women’s studies and more, to learn more and “became enthralled” with what advisors do.
She’s been back at UGA since 2014. She started as an advisor in communications studies before being placed in the Romance languages department. That placement works well—she speaks some French, Portuguese and German and has an interest in other cultures thanks to her travels in Europe. She advises approximately 250 upper-division students and meets with all of them at least once each semester.
“We try to emphasize that they’re learning skills, not just information,” said Daley-Bailey, who received a Franklin College Staff Excellence in Diversity Leadership Award last year.
Advisors make an impact in a few ways, according to Daley-Bailey. They are resources, first and foremost. Advisors answer questions from their students, they share information those students need, they alleviate students’ (and parents’) fears, and they also can be a sounding board for advice. Daley-Bailey said she transitions between those roles daily.
“We want students to know that it isn’t them versus the world. They have an ally,” she said. “We’re not here to tell them what is right or wrong, but we are here to point out their options.”
Daley-Bailey also advises incoming students during orientations whether they are transferring or registering for their first college course. It’s a transition from high school culture to university culture, which can be overwhelming. They’re exposed to new procedures, and her goal is to guide them through the process. She makes sure these students know that there will be things they didn’t think of, from opportunities to experiences, and that it will be stressful but exhilarating.
Not only do advisors guide students through the transition to university, but they also help them navigate a system of policies and procedures that is often much larger, and sometimes more complicated, than their secondary education. Daley-Bailey said it’s important to be available to answer those questions for her students and share that institutional knowledge.
“It’s such a fulfilling experience,” she said. “You’ve laid the path for them, but they have to choose it.”
Daley-Bailey said advisors are important resources for faculty, too. While faculty, in general, focus on one particular subject, advisors have a broader view of their college or school that can help faculty members see their subject in a larger context.
“Advising itself is a lot like teaching,” she said, “but you’re not necessarily teaching material, you’re teaching them how to make their own choices.”
Outside of UGA, Daley-Bailey does arts such as journaling, beading and making jewelry. She also looks for classes to satisfy her hunger for learning, such as “Religion and Literature,” taught by Carolyn Medine, professor of religion.
“I’m a product and ally of UGA,” she said. “It’s home to me, and I want other people to feel welcome. You shouldn’t feel like a stranger here.”