An Interview with Director of Student Advising, Tara Silver

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Academic advising is a key component of Linden’s program and ensures students receive adequate guidance and mentorship in planning their academic path within high school and beyond. Our work supports each student’s personal and academic goals throughout their time at Linden. In addition to her ongoing leadership in academic advising, Tara is working collaboratively with high school teachers to establish best practices in teaching. Tara recently shared some of her thoughts on emerging research in education at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels.

Linden: You are presently pursuing your Ph.D. in Education at OISE. Tell us about your studies, and how this program augments your work in academic advising.

Tara: Broadly speaking, my doctoral research explores the impact of globalization on educational policy and practice. My work with Grade 12 students is shaped by my knowledge of recent changes in post-secondary education and the job market young women are entering. Both of these are greatly impacted by global competition. Students today need a range of social skills, intellectual strengths, and creativity. At the same time, we are preparing young women to be active, engaged citizens in a diverse and democratic society. I believe this begins with empathy. Current research in citizenship education and democratic pedagogy supports the value of socio-emotional learning at all levels of children’s development.

Linden: Academic Advisors interface with school administrators, teachers, students, and parents. How do you view the importance of your role in supporting student achievement as well as guiding each of these groups?

Tara: I enjoy my role tremendously. I have the privilege of working with a range of “stakeholders” in the Linden community, and I see myself as a sort of liaison between parents, students, and the school. My role is to be present and engaged in advocating for our students.

Linden: What are the latest best practices and trends in academic advising?

Tara: Those of us who work in post-secondary planning need to go beyond a focus on university admissions towards developing “university relations.” I am regularly in touch with admissions officers, program directors, and alumnae in various university departments. I recently visited Queen’s University, where I spoke with women from the economics and commerce programs about their experiences. Next month I will be meeting with the director of Waterloo’s Knowledge Integration (KI) Program. Knowing what universities want helps me support Linden students’ post-secondary goals.

Linden: How does Linden support student well-being? How do you guide students to be well rounded both academically and socially?

Tara: We always take a holistic view of student well-being. This means working with teachers and families to help students’ manage their stress. Much of the stress in the middle and high school years comes from a mix of changing social dynamics and friendships, increased academic demands, and normal developmental changes. Students have many in-class opportunities to develop strategies for coping and thriving through these changes.

Linden: What are the latest trends in university admissions? What do you hear from admission officers that Linden students and parents should know about?

Tara: Some highly competitive programs like engineering at the University of Toronto or Waterloo now require more than just high grades. Students are being asked for more supplementary information. This might mean a timed writing exercise, a video response to a question, or even an interview. Universities want students who are not only academically strong but also excellent communicators and creative problem-solvers.

Linden: University admissions can cause parents considerable anxiety. What advice do you give them?

Tara: It is stressful, but I urge parents to enjoy this time of exploration and transition into adulthood. There are so many factors to consider during the application process, but keeping your daughter’s academic strengths and interests high on the list is important. Trying to maintain open communication is also key. Some families keep a shared calendar of all the important dates and campus visits.

Linden: Have you heard from recent Linden graduates on how they are doing in their respective universities and careers?

Tara: I just saw one of our alumnae, Katherine Glover. She is studying kinesiology at Waterloo and is very happy in her second year. Last summer, I had the pleasure of working with alumna Gillian Gardhouse on Linden’s strategic plan. She is also doing well in a demanding professiongeological engineering at Kinross Gold Corpand she is now pursuing an MBA at Rotman. It’s always a delight to hear from our alumnae!