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As a hospital chaplain, Copeland Johnston learned to listen and help people during the most vulnerable times of their lives. These skills have proven invaluable when working with his students in his role as an academic advisor.

“While I was studying for my Master of Divinity, I spent a summer serving as a hospital chaplain on the south side of Chicago. I worked with people during their most vulnerable times, which helped me develop special listening skills. I was able to help people understand their feelings and gained the ability to listen for certain words that were an expression of something deeper.Throughout my master’s degree, I also took a lot of classes in pastoral psychology, pastoral counseling and completed extensive work in anti-racism and interpersonal relationships. This has all been very useful to me as an academic advisor and has helped me connect with students and address their individual needs.

I often times work with students who have scholastic standards issues and I let them know that I also I struggled with academics as an undergraduate at the U. My biggest struggle was understanding the system and how to chart a meaningful path to graduation. Unlike those years, though, we now have a group of academic advisors who are committed to student success. Having that conversation with students helps put them at ease and makes me a more adept advisor. I also boast about the fact that in spite of my struggles, I have lasting friendships with faculty and certain organizations on campus.

My biggest piece of advice to struggling students is to take advantage of every opportunity you have on campus, whether it’s a social organization or club. Take advantage of things that don’t necessarily take place in the classroom. You’ll realize you’re part of the larger U community and find others who are in the same position as you.

The U was so good to me as an undergraduate and I have such a sense of loyalty to my alma mater and I want to provide that to my students.”

— Copeland Johnston, academic advisor, College of Humanities

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