Posted August 10, 2021 — Jeylan Yassin has helped countless students graduate during her 17 years at the University of Houston College of Education, serving as an academic advisor and now leading an advising team as the director of undergraduate programs.
For her leadership and exceptional support, Yassin earned the College’s Staff Distinguished Service Award for 2020-21.
“To be honored by the people who value you and know you most feels like an incredible accomplishment,” she said.
Yassin found her calling in advising later in life. While she earned her B.A. and M.F.A. in creative writing from UH and her peers pursued a doctorate in English, Yassin wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. She shared with a career counselor how she enjoyed teaching English and helping students but didn’t want to spend time grading papers.
“I want to work with students, feel like I’m making a difference in their life, not just evaluate their use of commas,” Yassin said.
Her career counselor suggested becoming an advisor. Yassin applied to become one for the College’s then-educational psychology department in 2004 and has been working at the College since.
“I tell a lot of students when I’m doing orientation, ‘Have you gone to the career counselor? I went to them, and it changed my life!’”
Learn more about Yassin and her role in the Q&A below:
How long have you worked at UH?
I’ve heard the dean say, “Jeylan grew up here.” I started at UH at age 26, and I feel very committed to the University, to the College of Education. I feel like it’s my home.
What are your responsibilities as the director of undergraduate programs?
As advisors, we’re responsible for holistic advising, to help students accomplish their hopes and dreams. Sometimes that involves talking to them about their feelings, looking up courses for them, policies. [It’s] a broad job, which is why I like it.
What is an average day for you like?
We’re in the business of helping students make their dreams come true, and sometimes that involves a lot of problem solving. For example, an art major wants to change paths and be a science teacher. How do we get the student there? We work in the field of helping students figure out.
How do advisors help students succeed?
Everyone has a story of a teacher who changed their lives, and it’s usually about mentoring and not necessarily ‘she taught me how to factor in math.’ Someone cared about them, and that encouraged them to accomplish what they wanted. I think advisors can be that for students. It’s not just bureaucracy, not just telling students what time class is; it’s helping them develop. Our office is incredibly dedicated to making a difference for our students.
What advice do you have for students?
We want to help you find and follow your dreams, but don’t be afraid to discover new things. You don’t have to be a doctor because you wanted that when you were 12. Many students refine their career choice over time, and we have an amazing team to help you think out your choices.
What do you do for fun?
I write. I’ve written some novels. I just started water coloring; it is forcing me to learn patience.
Do you have any pets?
I have three dogs, and one of them is a 15-year-old pug, Chopper, who is very cute. When we were working from home for a year, he would show up in a lot of video meetings. I would joke that my pug was my intern because he was always sitting with me while I worked.
What are you looking forward to most post-pandemic?
Human faces. As an extrovert, I really miss human interaction. I miss the excitement of working with students. I’m looking forward to face-to-face graduation, where I can see their faces.
— By Lillian Hoang