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Academic advisor uses coaching philosophy to help students succeed in school

Growing up, Ivan Nicholson dreamed of coaching a professional sports team. The former college football receiver envisioned himself on the sidelines during games, guiding his players toward personal and team success.

However, in college, his aspirations changed. As he began developing his career goals to align with his coursework, Nicholson recognized that the role of a coach is not limited to sports. He felt a broader calling to help people succeed in school as well and sought to find a way to help students map out and develop their strengths, similar to the way a coach draws out a game plan.

Today, Nicholson is a University of Phoenix academic advisor and spends his days guiding students and alumni at all points along their educational journey through this coaching-style technique. While each academic advisor has a different approach, the objective is the same — help students develop an individualized plan that aligns their coursework with future goals and directs them to career-readiness resources along the way.

For Nicholson, supporting students starts with deeper conversations that go beyond short-term academic goals, so he can identify which resources might best help a student as they progress.

“When I meet with students, I ask a lot of questions to help them think about the ways their education plans connect to career goals,” Nicholson said. “A lot of times, students just need those questions asked of them to get the ideas started.”

Vanessa Ramirez, academic advisor manager, said the University strives to help students consider themselves lifelong learners. The University recognizes the value of experiences that occurred before and also after degree completion. To that end, career support is not limited to a specific time frame during the student’s education.

To provide support, the University directs students to resources from the time they enroll to the time they graduate and progress into their careers. Helpful tools include instructive webinars on resume writing and interview techniques on PhoenixLink, networking opportunities, job boards, virtual career fairs and more.

Academic advisors are encouraged to do what Nicholson does so well — understand the student’s unique life and work experiences, learning style and future aspirations, and align them with career-readiness support.