By Nicole Russo

I don’t think that I realized this at the time, but a major contributing factor in my pursuit of a career in higher education was community. In my own undergraduate experience, I felt support from my fellow peers, as well as mentorship and guidance from the faculty and staff. I had not experienced this same sense of belonging in a school community before and consequently, I really cherished it.

When it came time to graduate and decide upon a first job, I realized that I never wanted to leave the college setting. And I didn’t. I spent the next five years doing work in admissions and student affairs on various college campuses in the Boston area. I had the opportunity to work with different student age groups and within a variety of campus cultures.

Similar to my undergrad self, a value that I have seen within all student demographics is a desire to belong and to find our place in the grand scheme. In choosing to pursue higher education, we all put so much on the line. Our time, our financial resources, our hopes for the future. It’s a vulnerable time of life, whether you are 18 or 68, and it can feel like a gigantic leap into the unknown.

My aim as a student advisor at Brandeis GPS is for my students to feel supported and to never feel that they

are going at it alone. In being enrolled in an online, part-time graduate program, I recognize that being a student is only a singular aspect of a student’s identity. My goal is to approach student advising with this consideration at the forefront and to recognize how the dimensions of our lives intersect. For instance, the birth of a child or the death of a family member has the potential to impact academic performance in a course. I want to be able to know about these happenings, so that we can collaboratively seek out resources and create solutions. I hope to get to know my students as whole people.

Sometimes when I think of community, I think about the NBC sitcom Cheers that depicts a Boston neighborhood bar where “everyone knows your name.” Like the bar regulars in Cheers, I hope that my students similarly feel seen, heard and valued at Brandeis GPS. I am looking forward to accompanying you as you create your community here.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.