Gettysburg’s faculty advisors ignite student potential

Dave Powell speaking to a student
Gettysburg College Public Policy Prof. Dave Powell advises a student during his office hours. (Photo by Jason Minick, Minick Photography)

As artists, researchers, and scholars, Gettysburg College faculty engage students in new ways of thinking, bend the boundaries of their academic comfort zones, and contribute to change in the world. At Gettysburg, our faculty are more than just teachers; they learn and work alongside our students as contributing colleagues and mentors. Faculty advisors at Gettysburg College bring to life A Consequential Education for their students by igniting potential within every student and dedicating themselves to supporting the whole student.

Helping students ‘build themselves’

When first-year students begin their Gettysburg College education, they embark on a transformative process of discovering who they are. Through the Gettysburg Approach, they discover how to make the most of the breadth and depth of knowledge, enduring skills, and experiences they’ll receive over the next four years as they pursue their own consequential lives.

Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel
Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel (Photo by Shawna Sherrell)

Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel approaches student advising as opportunities to help students “build themselves.”

“My job is in part to listen to them, to figure out who they think they want to become, whether it is an authentic expression of their goals or just a repetition of external expectations,” he said. “Part of our job is to explore who they are, where they come from, and all the possibilities they are entertaining about where they hope to go. Advisors can augment that with new possibilities that the advisee had never considered or taken seriously.”

“Being an advisor at Gettysburg College is unique because of the depth of connection you establish [with students].”
– Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel

Gimbel views the role of faculty advisor at Gettysburg as going beyond simply helping students choose classes or sign forms.

“You are that safe adult where advisees can talk about anything, from adding or dropping a class to personal issues with family or romantic partners, questions about roommate issues, and campus culture,” he said. “To help them figure out who they want to be, they need to be comfortable actually being that person with you.

“Being an advisor at Gettysburg College is unique because of the depth of connection you establish [with students],” he continued. “You are their partner at a formative time in life when they decide both the direction in which they want to launch themselves and the wider self they want to be along that journey.”

Members of the Class of 2024 identify with Gimbel’s view of faculty advisors as teachers and mentors, including Angela Frola ’24, a philosophy major, and Luke Kowalski ’24, a philosophy major and religious studies minor.

Angela Frola ’24
Angela Frola ’24 (Photo by Alex Detter Photography)

“Prof. Gimbel was not only my faculty advisor, but also a figure on campus who gave me life advice,” said Frola, who has begun work as a seasonal interpretive ranger for the National Park Service at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. “Not only did he provide great academic advice and information, but Prof. Gimbel also provided time to talk about anything I needed or wanted to talk about with someone. Without Prof. Gimbel, I wouldn’t have graduated with a philosophy major, and my time at Gettysburg would not have been as fulfilling. He was a big part of my Gettysburg career.”

Kowalski, who hopes to pursue studies in apologetics, said he recognizes a faculty advisor’s multifaceted role in guiding students toward their individual path to success at Gettysburg. He attributes his personal success to the support he received from Gimbel as his advisor.

“An advisor is able to answer questions a student may have about the requirements needed for a major,” he said. “[Prof.] Steve Gimbel was able to help me with that process by recommending classes to take to fulfill those requirements. This spring, [he] was able to look at my classes and determine what I needed to complete for graduation. Having someone who knows what is needed is key to making sure a student is on track to graduate with the proper requirements.”

Beyond Gimbel’s help with graduation requirements, Kowalski said he appreciated having someone who encouraged his students to explore not what to think, but how to think.

“In philosophy, there can be a lot of opposing viewpoints, but [Gimbel] always made one feel comfortable, even if the viewpoint was different than his. His goal in teaching was to impart knowledge and let us all think for ourselves.”

Economics Prof. Linus Nyiwul teaches a class
Economics Prof. Linus Nyiwul teaches a class inside Plank Gym. (Photo by Jason Minick, Minick Photography)

Fostering mutual growth for faculty and students

Gettysburg’s faculty advisors help students navigate their Gettysburg College education with purpose. Faculty engage students in their curious exploration of the breadth and depth of subject knowledge all the while supporting them as they build enduring skills. Faculty advisors are an integral part of every student’s Gettysburg journey, and they serve on Personal Advising Teams for Gettysburg students participating in the Guided Pathways.

While faculty advisors give much time and attention to their advisees, they also gain much themselves in return from their students.

“I view the relationship with my students as one of mutual growth,” said East Asian Studies Chair Junjie Luo. “I enjoy supporting students and helping them succeed in their academic and career endeavors. These interactions also help me understand their needs, which allows me to continually adapt my teaching and advising methods to better work with them.”

Ella Zimmerman ’24 with East Asian Studies Chair Junjie Luo
Ella Zimmerman ’24 presented her Stole of Gratitude to East Asian Studies Chair Junjie Luo after Commencement for the Class of 2024 on May 18, 2024. (Photo provided)

Ella Zimmerman ’24 appreciates the advising support she received from Luo during her time at Gettysburg. From helping her track classes and requirements for her East Asian studies major to taking the time to listen to her questions and concerns about her coursework and future, Luo was Zimmerman’s advocate and sounding board.

“I think faculty advisors are important to Gettysburg students because it allows students to develop a relationship with a faculty advisor. Building this relationship can give students someone to reach out to with questions or problems, or even someone to write them a letter of recommendation for a job in the future,” she said. “Without Prof. Luo, I could not have come as far as I have today. He always was interested in how I was doing as a student, any challenges I was having, and what my thoughts were about my career.”

“I enjoy supporting students and helping them succeed in their academic and career endeavors.”
– East Asian Studies Chair Junjie Luo

Luo’s support for her career plans were invaluable, Zimmerman said. When she decided to apply for a language analysis internship with the U.S. Department of Defense in Fort Meade, Maryland, last summer, Luo helped her prepare for her interview by providing material to help her study for a language placement test, writing a recommendation letter, and agreeing to serve as a character reference for her.

Not only did Zimmerman secure this internship, but she also landed a job after graduation as a Chinese cultural analyst for CACI, a contractor for the U.S. government, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“This internship helped me create a very strong resume that allowed me to compete with other candidates that had years of experience for my upcoming job,” Zimmerman said. “Prof. Luo has been nothing but encouraging, and I hope he recognizes that I would not have been able to get where I am today without his support.”

Encouraging students as they navigate college, adulthood, and careers

Gettysburg’s faculty advisors are professors dedicated to supporting their advisees as they navigate college and adulthood and conceive of their post-graduate career plans. Since every student bring unique ambitions and experiences to their Gettysburg education, faculty advisors focus on making every connection with their advisees meaningful and personal, and that also includes faculty research advisors.

“Over the years, I have helped students discern their interests, learn about career options that highlight those interests and strengths, select courses, develop new study strategies, improve time management skills, locate additional support resources at Gettysburg, and more,” said Biology Prof. Jennifer Powell. “Working with Gettysburg students is the greatest privilege and joy of my career. It is incredibly rewarding to watch and guide a student as they overcome challenges and grow as a scientist. Students change so much during their time at Gettysburg, and it is incredible to be a small part of that transformation.”

Isabella Jensen ’24, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, attributes her success at Gettysburg to the research advising and mentorship she received from Powell.

“During the fall of my junior year, I had to take a short absence for a surgery I needed. She helped me think about how I could organize my schedule to still satisfy the major-required courses I needed to take but not be too bogged down with courses that would make getting back on track after my absence super difficult,” she said.

Isabella Jensen ’24 with Biology Prof. Jennifer Powell and Biology Prof. Steve James
Isabella Jensen ’24 (center) greets Biology Prof. Jennifer Powell (left) and Biology Prof. Steve James (right) after her Spring 2024 performance of “Cendrillon.” (Photo provided)

“When I was considering studying abroad, she encouraged me to explore the many options Gettysburg has to offer and what program would best suit my needs and interests. I ended up going to Copenhagen and had the best time,” Jensen added. “Finally, she always encouraged me to do my best and excel in my courses and research, but to also find time for myself and to maintain my hobbies—baking, music, and yoga.”

With Powell’s support as her foundation, Jensen said she is excited to move to Boston after Commencement, where she’ll join Dr. Seth Rakoff-Nahoum’s lab at Boston Children’s Hospital as a research assistant.

For Leah Gulyas ’19, a French and biology double major at Gettysburg, Powell provided her the guidance and mentorship that helped her discover career opportunities in scientific research.

“Researching in her lab was what first brought me to scientific research,” said Gulyas, who is pursuing doctoral studies at the University of California Berkeley. “She taught me many of the critical skills—both at the bench and intellectually—that I needed to succeed, and she has spent a lot of time discussing my career trajectory and preparing me.”

“Gettysburg faculty really care. They are invested in you and are adept at training and supporting you in a way that helps you attain your goals.”
– Leah Gulyas ’19

“Dr. Powell walked me through the process of how one becomes a professional academic scientist, sharing her own experiences and advice,” Gulyas continued. “She played a fundamental role in my graduate school preparation and acceptance by encouraging me to apply for fellowships and external research opportunities, supporting my research and publications while in her lab, discussing program options, writing me letters of recommendation, and ultimately helping me decide to attend my current graduate institution.” 

Powell, she explained, went beyond instilling in her the “transferable laboratory skills,” but also encouraged her scientific thinking, pedagogy, and communication skills. While Gulyas acknowledges the invaluable support she received from Powell, she also recognizes the work of Gettysburg faculty members who taught her courses in biology, chemistry, French, and music.

“Gettysburg faculty really care. They are invested in you and are adept at training and supporting you in a way that helps you attain your goals,” she said. “Teaching and mentoring are often both their priority and their passion; they drive students to better themselves and to realize their potential in a very personal way.” 

It’s these personal connections with their students and alumni that faculty members like Luo treasure.

“The role of faculty advisors at Gettysburg is unique due to the enduring relationships that often extend beyond graduation,” Luo said. “I have received updates from students who graduated years ago, and these updates are always a source of great joy for me.”

Passionate, innovative, student-driven…discover how our Gettysburg faculty awaken students’ curiosities.

By Michael Vyskocil
Posted: 06/05/24