October 11, 2010
Dr. Byron Brown: Advising a Privledge
VALDOSTA -- Dr. Byron Brown considers it a privilege to pen
recommendation letters and help students navigate through course
“When I was a student, I was lucky to have an academic advisor who knew the regulations and who cared about me. As an advisor, I've tried to be the same kind of faculty member -- someone who knows and someone who cares,” the English professor said. “Of these two, caring is most important. By that I mean someone who cares enough to be accessible, someone who will devote time to students' individual questions and problems, and someone they can depend on to be their advocate.”
The university recognized Brown with the 2010 Excellence in Advising Award during Convocation. The recognition has only fueled his aims to aid students in meeting their academic and personal goals. “It isn’t always pretty,” Brown said, likening advising to home maintenance, but thoughtful guidance is vital and intensely rewarding.
“Like handymen and housekeepers, academic advisors perform obscure, inglorious tasks. To the casual observer, they are nearly invisible, working quietly and, for the most part, out of sight,” said Byron, the former co-editor of Notes on Teaching. “But as any homeowner with a dripping faucet or stopped shower can attest, mundane tasks often possess a value inversely proportional to their visibility or glamour. Departmental advising is no exception.”
The VSC alumnus has been working directly with students since he joined Valdosta State as a faculty member in 1984. He served as the director of the VSC Writing Center from 1986-89, director of the Honors Program for three years in the early ‘90s, and Interim Director of the Honors Program from 2004-2006. He has served as the English department’s designated advisor since 2008.
“The academic advising I do is part of a much bigger picture. My work paves the way for the even more important mentoring that goes on outside the classroom,” Brown said. “My colleagues who help oversee internships, sponsor student research, take students to their first professional conferences, write letters to get them into graduate school, introduce them to professional networks, and help them get jobs really have the greatest impact.”
Freshman Ashleigh Kinney is one of many students who rely on Brown for academic guidance. Like many of her peers, Kinney appreciates Brown’s sincerity and availability.
“At times, college can naturally feel a bit overwhelming, but having an advisor who is thorough, organized, and sincere certainly makes things easier,” Kinney said. “Personally, I rarely relinquish control to any individual -- especially when it concerns my future. However, I find it easy to fully trust him.”
His dedication to advising, however, has not hampered his zest for teaching and research. Brown has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles and presented even more papers at conferences nationwide. An expert on composition theory and business writing, Brown’s latest work explores C.S. Lewis’ response to the “new psychology” of Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung.
“I guess one of C.S. Lewis’ statements could serve as a favorite quotation: ‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’ There's always something new and untried. The game is still on,” Brown said. “I enjoy the chance to help students as they prepare to take their first steps onto the playing field.”