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A Hand to Help, but Not to Hold

A Hand to Help, but Not to Hold

Graduate Division Counselor, Elizabeth Dunn, on empowering students in times of transition and beyond

Headshot of Elizabeth Dunn smiling with climbing gear on a mountain

Q: Now that you’ve been at UCI for a few months, what does UCI mean to you?

A: UCI’s campus is community driven and invested in its future. Not only are the students involved in social issues, but the University itself is as by investing in the graduate students. To me, UCI is very self-reflective – people see the core campus needs and ensure the right steps are in place for changes to happen rather than make excuses for no change.

Q: What do you hope to provide for students in your role as an Academic Counselor?

A: I want to provide a safe space that’s casual for students and not a clinical conversation. I also want to provide students with practical, easy-to-use tools, not simply advise them on what they should be doing. These tools will allow students to identify their strengths and to learn to utilize their available surroundings and campus resources. Even around campus, there are affordable activities to help establish work-life balances such as reconnecting with nature, hiking, heading to the beach, and exploring the ocean.

Essentially, I want to serve as an informed, unbiased resource and as a collaborative partner to students. Some people like to be told what to do, but that is not going to be me. I will help you navigate strategies for your current lifestyle and identify your strengths, but at the end of the day – you know yourself best. You must decide your own path.

Q: How did you establish a work-life balance as a student?

A: As a graduate student, I worked a full-time job and attended night classes, so the best way I established a work-life balance was by becoming very cognizant of remembering to write things down. I realized there was no need to stress about remembering the little things, which gave me time and energy to focus on the big things.

This included scheduling vacations in that time between semesters. I worked extremely hard throughout each semester, so I made sure to be mindful and proud of everything I did to get to that point. I am a very curious person who likes to explore, so I treated every vacation as a learning experience with the goal to come back learning more about the area I am visiting or about myself.

Q: How has that work-life balance transitioned now as a mentor/counselor?

A: That curiosity  to explore resulted in my move to California – a region I had never explored before. I am an avid rock climber, so I wanted to explore the national parks and learn about the native, surrounding areas, and for me, climbing is when my mind ironically feels the most at ease!

Additionally, if I plan to go to the gym, I will schedule that in my calendar to be just as important as a doctor’s appointment.

I also still keep reaching out to my support system. To maintain a good support system, you also have to put yourself out there and invest in it. Just like a good friendship, you have to put the time and awareness into it.

Q: Why did you go into this profession?

A: I really enjoy talking with people, especially people who are in different stages of transition. When people are in stages of transition, the transition doesn’t always go as smoothly as we’d hope it will and it is very easy for people to feel vulnerable and for someone to tell you what you should be doing instead.

An individual can truly reflect on what is best for themselves and their desired outcomes by seeking out an objective resource. I pursued this career because I wanted to be that objective voice to help empower students and teach them the skills to uncover what is best for themselves. My style of mentoring is to help, but not hand hold.

The earlier students can realize their skills of empowerment and self-reflection, they will have a much easier time transitioning into life and beyond.

To make an appointment with a Graduate Academic Counselor

What goals do you have for your Wellness, GradEaters? If you’re unsure, make an appointment and chat with Elizabeth today! You can make an appointment by email or phone: dunnes@uci.edu or 949-824-9031. ⁣

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