How She’d Do All That?

Alum Katya Davydova could teach a class on getting the most out of a UVA education in and out of class. She also lead workshops on Career development and has a list of internships that would impress anyone. Oh yes, an National Science Foundation grant is a part of her resume. But Katy’s real mission in life is to connect with others and help them. Here is a snippet of her interview.

I am not sure I have known of anyone your age who has served as a mentor or advisor in as many capacities as you have. First of all what do you think makes a good advisor? Is it true for you that as a mentor/advisor you learned as much as you imparted wisdom?

Why thank you! I truly wish I could do that for a living (and am seeking ways to do so—I get so much joy out of advising).

“A good advisor—contrary to the name—does not immediately advise, off the bat. In my view, it is not the goal of an advisor to tell his/her mentee “here’s what you should do,” but instead to offer nuggets of information or to “open the knowledge doors.” A crucial thing must happen before that, though: listening. Do you know that old story where, in a married couple, a woman is seemingly “complaining” and the husband gives her directions on how to “solve” her woes? That story where, in the first place, the woman just wants to be heard and acknowledged for her difficulties, and is not looking for discrete solutions? Sometimes, it takes a good advisor just to listen and have the advisee simply be heard and use the advisor as a sounding board. When the advisor repeats back what the advisee said (“So, what I’m hearing is…”), the latter can try to take a distanced look at whatever issue. (I’ve never actually dissected this process before in writing, so this is neat!) Of course, there are instances where the advisor may impart some wisdom, like an alumnus to a current undergrad, and that can be in the form of “Oh, so you’re interested in X–I know someone in that field, why don’t you give them a call, or consider Y activity to supplement X!”

My favorite part about advising is being able to hear the perspectives of my mentees and the challenges they face. For example, I was leading a coaching session to a group of high school leaders, and learned not only about about the realities of new technology in their school (all students get laptops!) but also about the timeless issues of bullying and cliques. Fascinating! Or, I mentored several second years who weren’t sure about their majors of what to do in college, and they blew me away with the activities and clubs they were involved in. It’s so gratifying to hear younger students contribute in incredibly unique ways to the college community–and those vignettes especially mean so much because we have a shared bond over our university.”
For a whole lot more great advice read the full interview here: “Striving To Help Others Thrive”: Dare to be Great!

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