What is Your Why

by Kaylee Roholt, Academic Advisor

Kaylee Roholt

When I tell my story of “how I got to now,” I like to begin with my education at Snow College. I worked as a student leader in the president’s office. I had a fearless mentor who helped me realize my strengths and goals. It was then I knew I wanted a career where I could be that kind of positive influence for others. Marci may not know how much I gleaned from her, but her impact was lasting.

Fast forward 12 years, and I have not stepped away from higher education. A Utah State University bachelor’s and master’s degree later, I have found a career and a passion in academic advising. I believe in higher education. It is transformative. The opportunity to be part of the transformation of students’ lives is magic! The fact that I get to do it at USU in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences is icing on the cake. And the students? Surely, aviation students are some of the best around!

It was pure luck and fortune that landed me as the aviation advisor. No, my background is not in aviation. That has been part of the delight! To learn about something so far from my realm of knowledge has been invigorating. It is my pleasure to work with students from across the state, country, and globe. Sure, they test my patience. Explaining how to find a breadth class for the millionth time can get tiresome. But, when I see a student’s face light up as they tell me about their progress in flight, when they beam as they give a presentation about their internship experience, or when their shoulders relax when I tell them academic probation is not the end of their dreams or their education journey, those things never get old.

College is ever changing. Technology, costs, additional responsibilities, and other extrinsic and intrinsic factors that impact students’ lives are not what they have been, even in recent years. This means the type, method, and amount of support students need is also changing. Perhaps the most advantageous way I combat this is by returning to my go-to belief: advising is teaching. It is my role to help students navigate the college world, including many factors outside the classroom that must be considered. I use teachable moments to help students problem solve, communicate effectively, and reframe setbacks so they see ways to move forward.

We promote USU Associate Professor Matthew Sanders’ philosophy of becoming a learner: “The primary purpose of college isn’t learning a specific set of professional skills; the primary purpose of college is to become a learner.” When students don’t have a clearly defined “why” for being in college, they miss out on valuable opportunities to learn. I help empower students to clarify and articulate their “why.” I help them realize their potential and goals, then guide them as they seek tools and develop competencies to obtain them.

What is your “why” for the things you are engaged in?

Students are my “why” for advising. They are why I’m here and why I stay. Helping them gives me purpose and fulfillment. When they are excited to tell me about their latest success—a passing grade, an internship, a job offer—I know I’m on the right track. When we get to celebrate their successes together, I know I have reached my goal of being the positive influence I set out to be.

Kaylee Roholt was honored this spring as Utah State University’s Advisor of the Year. She advises the 397 students currently enrolled in professional pilot and aviation maintenance degree programs in the School of Applied Sciences, Technology and Education.