Erin Heim is the head advisor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ Office of Student Success. Before she assumed her role with the college in January, she worked at Colorado State University as the undergraduate program coordinator in the Warner College of Natural Resources. Erin earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Natural Resources in OSU’s College of Forestry and a second master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University.
What made you decide to get into this field? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?
“Part of the reason I became an academic advisor was based on interactions I had with my academic advisor at Oregon State University when I was an undergraduate student in the College of Forestry. My advisor was like a second mother to me and I stopped by all the time to chat, to say hello and grab piece of candy. Although I did a lot of my own course planning, I still relied on her for advice and support. I was inspired by the relationships built between academic advisors and students.”
Why did you choose to work at Oregon State/PHHS?
“I was born and raised in Oregon and attended OSU for my BS and first MS. My experience was filled with opportunities, support and a high-quality education. I wanted to give back to OSU because it had done so much for me. I also want to do what I can to ensure that the next generation of OSU students are receiving the same level of care.
“My family still lives in Portland and that, coupled with a deep affection for the people of Oregon, gives me a stake in the health of individuals and families in Oregon. The CPHHS’ commitment to advancing lifelong health and well-being for all is a vision for which I have great respect and enthusiasm.”
What is your favorite part about working as an advisor?
“My favorite part of being an advisor is watching students succeed. This could include getting a grade that was higher than expected on an exam they worked hard to prepare for or landing a dream job or internship. I am proud to be there to support students, help them navigate the university and focus on becoming the person they want to be.”
What is your favorite part about working in the Office of Student Success?
“The OSS is a think tank dedicated exclusively to students and their success. The staff here are student focused and work well together to determine the most effective ways to foster student success. My favorite aspect of the office is our commitment to ensuring that students are aware of and take advantage of all the opportunities and resources available to them at OSU.”
What do you believe is the greatest accomplishment you’ve had in your career so far?
“My greatest accomplishment was changing the model of academic advising from faculty advising to professional advising at my previous institution. This freed faculty to focus on their mentoring relationships with students and ensured students were getting up-to-date and accurate academic information. I built strong relationships with my students and faculty so they felt comfortable with the transition and knew that I was capable of and committed to high-quality advising.”
How do you strive to affect people’s lives with your work?
“I strive to affect lives one student at a time. I believe all students need at least one college or university person whom they know cares about and supports them and their efforts. That is why I work to communicate with students often to ensure they know that I believe they are important and capable of success.”
What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?
“It’s more of a motto than advice – “You don’t know until you try.” My father says it to me frequently, and I use it often with my students. Many assume that an idea is not feasible or a request will not be granted. However, if you let that stop you from trying, you may not be able to make progress or get what you want out of life.”
What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?
“I was an interpretive naturalist for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska, where I educated visitors about glaciers, whales and ecology on the Alaska Marine Highway and the Alaska Railroad.”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“I enjoy riding my horse and hiking with my dog, Emma – although I do not enjoy cleaning them – I forgot about all the mud in Oregon! I also head out to the coast as much as I can to go surfing, and I’m an amateur photographer.”