Carey Hilbert has served as an academic advisor for the College of Public Health and Human Sciences since 1996 and has taught exercise classes for Faculty Staff Fitness since 1997. She was promoted to head advisor of the CPHHS School of Biological and Population Health Sciences in 2012. Carey earned a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology with a minor in Health Promotion from the CPHHS.
What does your job as head advisor of the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences in CPHHS Academic Advising entail?
“This is tough to sum up – it’s almost easier to think of what it doesn’t entail. In addition to all the complexities of advising our undergrad and post-bacc students, I supervise and mentor the Exercise and Sport Science and Nutrition advisors, hire and train new advisors, attend college and school-level curriculum meetings and work closely with school co-chairs regarding course scheduling, access and other issues, participate in the Council of Head Advisors and Academic Advising Council to address campus issues that directly affect the students and collaborate with other head advisors on campus. I also answer a whole lot of email – a whole lot. That’s just a partial list!”
What do you wish others knew about your job?
“For students, that I don’t have a magic wand! I will do what I can to help any situation, to help a student understand rules, policies and procedures, and try to find the best solutions to problems, but rarely can I change them. For others, just how extensive the work of advisors is. We do so much more than advise students on what classes to take when.”
Why did you choose to work at Oregon State in the CPHHS/What made you decide to get into this field?
“I have had a few careers prior to this – I was a professional dancer, then branched over to choreography and teaching at a private high school in the Los Angeles area for eight years. I loved everything about movement and decided to go back to school in exercise science. I received my master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science at OSU and loved my experience here. Jobs in the fitness directing and programming field were very limited in Eugene, but I wanted to stay there rather than move to Portland. I saw an advisor position open in what was then the College of Health and Human Performance at Oregon State. I called Dr. Wilcox, who had been my faculty advisor and asked him if he thought I could do this job. He said. ‘Well, yes, of course, but you won’t be using your degree.’ I got the job and thought I’d do it for a couple of years then go back to my initial plan. Well, September 2014 started my 19th year as an advisor here. I truly enjoy my job – I love the student interaction and the energy of campus life, the college, my colleagues and the programs I advise for. Health, exercise and nutrition have been part of my life and career since I was a teenager. So, I think I use my degree almost every day, in one capacity or another.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“Although it seems routine – and during priority registration it can be – each student brings different experiences and needs. I do love working with students who have gotten off track, had a sincere wake-up call and dedicate themselves to turning their academics around. Watching those students graduate is especially rewarding. The pleasure of working with students who are so self-motivated and energized by their college life and want to get as much out of it as possible is also very fun. Probably most importantly though, I couldn’t do this type of work every day if it weren’t for an equally dedicated group of colleagues in the CPHHS advising office who like to work hard, but make sure we have fun. I do – and have worked with amazing individuals!”
What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?
“This will sound strange, but when I was first being interviewed for the job, the associate dean of the college at the time, Kathy Heath, said to me, ‘If every one of your students likes you, you probably aren’t doing your job.’ What she meant was that advisors sometimes have to give bad news and that some students don’t hear or accept it well, no matter how it is delivered. Sometimes we have to give tough love. We owe it to our students to be honest with them so that they can grow and develop the skills they need beyond college. I can have 11 students leave my office very happy, and one that is angry because he or she didn’t get the desired answer. It is really easy to focus on that one student, that one experience, and forget what went well. At the end of each day, if I know that I have given my best to each student, been honest and accurate and treated them with respect, then that is what is important.”
What advice would you like to give to students and young alums?
“Don’t think about what you want to do for the rest of your life. What ignites your interest now? What can you see yourself doing for five to 10 years? You will likely have four or more actual career changes, and the jobs you’ll have in 10 to 15 years might very well not even exist today. Listen to your passion. And it really is OK to take time out of the college path to explore and find those passions if you don’t know why you are here.”
What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?
“I used to be a ballerina.”
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
“I am an avid – fair weather – road cyclist – my weekends from spring to fall revolve around rides. I teach and practice yoga and I love camping, hiking and kayaking – basically being active outdoors. Spending time with my friends is very important, and I also do volunteer work, which reminds me how very fortunate I am.”