Humans of the U: Michelle Tuitupou

“I did not grow up here in the U.S. I grew up in American Samoa and I came to the U.S. for college. I had no idea what I wanted to be. I took a really weird route through school and had a really bad experience with an academic advisor trying to figure that out. I taught for a little bit. I got my master’s in secondary ed. So my career started late when it came to higher ed. But my bad experience in college is something that’s part of my advising philosophy.

I started at SLCC as the academic advisor for the Pacific Islander students. And then I moved on to other roles. But even then, I still had students coming to me because they were more comfortable having searching conversations with someone who would understand the cultural pieces. A family funeral, for example, isn’t just a day or two, it’s like at least a week. They knew I would understand. I would want someone there for my children as well.

It’s not just planning out their classes, it’s helping them find their path. Some students take a few classes in one major and realize no, this isn’t what I want to do. Academic advisors are there to help them to then figure out: What’s our next plan?

I am a huge advocate for literacy. I am also a self-published author; I’ve published a couple of middle school chapter books and three children’s books. These all take Pacific Island cultures and put them into these stories so our kids can see themselves within these stories. I don’t sell a lot of them. I probably donate more than I sell, which is fine. Because I want our kids to be reading. And if they can find stories that they can see themselves in, that’s perfect.”

—Michelle Tuitupou, academic advisor, Department of Geology and Geophysics