Dr. Janet Nishihara is an Oregon State University alum, having graduated from OSU as a first-generation student majoring in English Education and later completing her master’s in College Student Services Administration. She began her work with the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) at OSU in 1981 as part of an assistantship. Since then, she’s served EOP as an academic counselor, instructor, and academic coordinator, and in 2009, she became director of EOP She earned her doctorate in Education Leadership from the University of Oregon. In addition to serving as EOP’s director, she also teaches U-Engage courses, along with courses in the CSSA program and the Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies departments.
Q: What made you decide to get into this field?
A: I had worked as a high school English teacher for a couple of years and started my master's in English literature at the University of Oregon because I didn’t know what else to do, and then somebody handed me a piece of paper that talked about the CSSA program and I thought -- wait, people get paid to work with college students? I had done things as an undergrad that were in student affairs but never thought about them as jobs that people got paid for until then.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: Having had that teacher-student relationship, I can see that a counselor has a different relationship with students than a teacher or even an advisor. It feels like a more human relationship, a more rounded relationship. With students now, I get to talk about families, work experiences they’ve had, what they’ve learned about themselves.
Q: What is most fascinating to you about your department/field?
A: The students. This includes students who are part of EOP and other student organizations I work with. Even students who are part of other programs that I run into in the halls. All students. I learn a lot from them. Part of me hopes that taking the time to talk with them makes them feel important on campus and that it eases their souls a little bit. I hope it frees them up to be more helpful, productive -- whatever they want to be in their lives.
Q: How do you build a genuine connection with students?
A: I just listen. And I make sure to treat students with respect. Students are amazing, but they don’t get told very often that they’re amazing.
Q: How have you evolved as an academic counselor since you began working with students?
A: I try to take advantage of my age. Since there’s an age gap between me and the younger students, I can perhaps be a little more pushy. And with the older students, they assume I know more than I sometimes do! So I think my age gives me credibility. But I still have to evolve with the students. I try to stay curious.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would like to give to students?
A: Relationships are important--whether it’s a friend, family members, advisor, faculty, academic counselor--be sure to nurture those relationships.