It's My Job
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Mei Griebenow, Graduate Student Affairs Officer, Integrative Biology and Endocrinology
11 March 2009
Mei Griebenow has worked on campus for more than 25 years, first as a clerk-typist at International House. Later, as a student assistant and intern in the College of Chemistry, she advised 100 freshmen — "a trial by fire," she recalls. That experience opened the door to student-affairs positions advising undergraduates and grad students in earth and planetary science (then called geology and geophysics), and Italian, Scandinavian, and Slavic Studies (where she was a graduate adviser). She has been in her current job, advising grad students in integrative biology and endocrinology, for four years.
What does your job involve?
I'm the front-line adviser in our department. Students come to me for anything from course advice to challenges juggling family, finances, and academics to problems with faculty or labmates.
Is it unpredictable, or does every semester seem pretty much like the others?
I don't know if people realize the whole spectrum of advising. We're not just paper pushers or here to make sure that students follow the rules of whatever program or department we represent. There is a fair amount of life that just comes through the door. You're looking at the whole person —not just as a part of somebody's lab.
It sounds like students confide in you.
Sometimes an adviser might be the only person that they trust and want to talk to. A fair number of students have come to me with different issues that are seemingly not related to academic progress, but of course it all relates.
How do you deal when someone comes to you with a personal problem?
Sometimes they just want somebody to listen. If they come to me, minimally that's what I can do.
Are you trained to help students with personal problems?
In this particular job you don't have to be trained as a counselor. I think most of us serve as a gateway. I can point them to people who are trained and experienced, say, at University Health Services or in Financial Aid.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
It's difficult to find the time and energy that I would like to give to each student because there are so many competing deadlines.
What do you like best about your work?
It combines two of my skills — paperwork and peoplework. It's yin and yang. The paperwork can be pretty static, predictable, and mundane. And then there's the people- processing, so to speak, that's dynamic, crazy, unpredictable, and fun. You can't not feel alive with that mix every day. This is not a boring job.