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From Millennials to Generation Z: Advisors, New and Old, Learn Ways to Connect to Today’s Undergraduates During This Year’s Neville

Advisors who attended this year’s Neville Advisor’s College heard Friday from Dr. Carrie Whittier who spoke on how much and how rapidly our undergrads are changing.

Whittier is an assistant dean of students for Greek life, leadership and volunteerism at Valparaiso University in Northern Indiana.

As Millennials fade and students of Generation Z take over, in what ways should our advisors be changing with them? Whittier will admit she does not have all of the answers, but she has an idea.

They need information to be presented to them in different, more efficient ways than the generations before them, and they need it at their fingertips. In most cases, they weren’t raised to know what to do in a lot of day-to-day — or what many of us would consider “common sense” — situations, like simply changing a light bulb.

Whittier’s best piece of advice: teach.

“I have learned that if you tell them how to do something once, they’ll get it,” Whittier said. “They are really smart.”

One advisor asked what he could possibly bring to the table if Generation Z students are developing their own ideas about how things should be done.

“What you’re bringing to the table is passion for Lambda Chi Alpha and life experiences,” Whittier said.

Aaron Pepin stepped into an advisor role at Worcester Polytechnic Institute fresh out of college. This is his first time attending Neville.

Photos by Taylor Grayson
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Advisor Aaron Pepin talks about how easily he can relate to the undergraduates he advises, but also how much he is learning from our veteran advisors during the 2018 Neville Advisor’s College Friday at The Alexander in Indianapolis.

“It’s been great so far. We’re getting a bunch of different perspectives from a bunch of different schools and age groups,” Pepin said.

This newcomer believes there is still a lot to be learned from our veteran advisors, too.

“The most interesting part for me, though, is seeing what hasn’t changed more so than what has,” Pepin said. “There’s a lot of commonality that you can find here, which is incredible because it’s all coming from completely different places.”

He didn’t think he would be an advisor this soon, but it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, he said.

“It’s definitely helping me to kind of turn the corner mentally from being an undergraduate student to going back and helping,” Pepin said.

Because he falls right on the cusp of the Millennial generation and Generation Z, he can more easily relate to the members he is advising. He was one of them less than a year ago. Many of the other advisors — the veterans — don’t have that leg up. It is important that those advisors learn ways to connect with their advisees.

“A lot of it came across really poignantly with Dr. Whittier’s conversation about how we communicate,” Pepin said. “The younger generation has a more difficult time articulating information because we haven’t developed that same vocabulary. We’re more common to say, ‘Let me show you instead,’ and connect them to a video or an online resource.”

Brandon Emanuelson, who is on the Alumni Advisory Board for the Minnesota State chapter, is also a first-time attendee.

A 2016 graduate, he has only been on the board for about two months.

He appreciated Whittier’s presentation about the changing face of today’s actives. It brought to light an important issue, he said.

“Not everybody is used to hanging out, so that’s going to change the dynamic of fraternities and what it really means to be an active,” Emanuelson said. “It will be an ever-growing process of how we can take what (current undergrads) are looking for and still give them the experience of a fraternity.”

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