Resolving problems and providing clarity through communication and attentive listening is what Tim Mahoney, instructor in economics and academic advisor, does best. He was hired in 1987 as a coordinator for Extended Services (now Outreach and Engagement) to help with labor management issues. “Evansville was perceived as a town that had problems between labor and management, as a result of that, people worried about attracting new businesses to the area,” said Mahoney. In his new role, he spoke to numerous business leaders in the community and through his courses, helped management and employees sort out communication problems and provided conflict resolution strategies.
Toward the end of Mahoney’s USI interview, Dr. Bob Reid, academic vice president emeritus, asked, “You can also teach a little economics, can’t you?” So along with the labor management forums, Mahoney taught a couple of economics courses.
His office at that time was next to University Division, which advised students who were undecided about their majors. “We’ve always had a very lean staff and so during registration time I’d pitch in,” he said. “There were students lined up in the hallways because there weren’t enough advisors. When a student registered, they would go to an advisor who filled out a card, and each student then went to the registrar’s window to have those classes entered into the system. Without advisors, students literally couldn’t do anything.” He decided to lend a hand and advise some of the waiting students.
Fast forward 28 years and Mahoney has become one of the most sought after advisors on campus. One reason is the time he spends getting to know each student individually. “You want to find out what’s going on with them and their individual circumstance; what they’re concerned about, what hesitations they’ve got, doubts they have and where they want to eventually be,” he said.
Recognizing that the first two weeks in a student’s academic life are often the most crucial, he keeps an open door policy, literally keeping his office door open for students to come in with questions or concerns, as well as frequently putting in hours on the weekend for his advisees. “It makes me feel good that maybe I’ve had some small influence on a person’s life; that I’ve helped them in some way toward achieving a goal or clearing up some issues in their life.”
Mahoney advises students to go out into their prospective career fields and talk with someone working in that field. He says while anyone can do an internet search, nothing replaces speaking with an actual individual who understands the job and can share their experience. “I have questions I give to students for information interviews: How did you get into this field? How’s the field developing? What are the skills you developed to get ready for this position? What changes are taking place?”
Familiarity is another key component in helping students find their way. “Many of the students are coming in from a high school environment where they know most of the teachers,” he said. The more people they can know here, whether it be an advisor, an administrative assistant or our bus driver, the sooner they can become acclimated. We want to make sure there are enough of those informal opportunities.”
Mahoney feels that the future of USI is bright. The University’s impact from southern Indiana to around the United States and even internationally, is a testament to people like Tim Mahoney who have taken the time to nurture relationships with their students.
While many things at USI have evolved and changed, there are still some constants that ring true for Mahoney: accessibility, affordability and good leadership.
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia