Advisor works for the students, not university


Maggie Willard

This is O’Dowd Hall, where Jim Bilinski holds face-to-face appointment with students. He’s guides students personally and academically at OU.

As a student, when deciding what classes to take or planning out your degree you email your advisor hoping for some guidance in the right direction. For the College of Arts and Sciences, Jim Bilinski is an advisor that comes with a lot of enthusiasm but realistic views.

“I marvel at how talented our students are,” Bilinski said. “Hearing them enthusiastically talk about all the cool [stuff] they’re doing in and out of the classroom is a ton of fun! It’s infectious.”

Bilinski attended Grand Valley State University for secondary education, in hopes of becoming the “cool” high school teacher that coaches sports. When his plan didn’t work out, and he was laid off from his original job idea. He then decided to go back to school and study counseling at Oakland University.

Essentially, I truly enjoy learning new things, even though my interests and goals don’t relate to my current job,” Bilinski said. “I’ve been at OU in the same role for over five years now.”

Bilinski has an advantage because he attended OU as well as became an advisor. He knows the tricks of OU and how to navigate it well, which might help students. 

He advises students within the College of Arts and Sciences, helping out those that major in natural/physical sciences, social sciences, fine/performing/communication arts and the humanities.

This profession deals a lot with students: what they need, how they feel and how to get them to graduation. With the background knowledge of teaching, Bilinski was hoping being an advisor would have a similar vibe and tasks to being a teacher. 

“The metaphor I’d use is that I’m a lighthouse with an information kiosk,” Bilinski said. “If students feel like things are rocky — whatever that might mean for them, it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to academics — then I can point them in the right direction.”

Bilinski prefers to let the students run his job. He tries to discuss with them what they need from him and does his best to either solve it himself or figure out who can help them the best.

While getting the students the information they need is top priority for Bilinski, he likes to focus on the mental health of the students as well. He prefers to start every appointment with a mental health check in because he realizes classes, homework, work and balancing a social life can put a lot of stress on some students.

As an advisor, he sees his role as more of a guidance helper rather than telling students what to do. He presents the possibilities and outcomes out each path a student might choose to take and allows for the students to actually decide what they want to do with the information he has given them.

“Students feel that I worked for them, not that I work for OU,” Bilinski said.

Bilinski finds pride in helping students find the right major or minor and connecting them with the right professors to fit their needs. But he also appreciates the help he gets from the other CAS advisors, CAS Dean’s Office, Career Services and the Registrar’s Office. 

“I would say the common thread is that students trust me because I provide objective info, follow through on my word and ensure their dignity remains intact when they face difficult situations,” Biliniski said. “I also try to empower students to take an active role in their education.”

Bilinski finds himself sometimes at a stand still as to what he can do for students. He can’t fix the admissions cost, choose what classes are offered for which semesters or change the class times, but he applies himself the best way he can to provide problem-solving ideas as best he can.

He has been recognized for having the most face-to-face advising appointments and puts forth the effort for the students. While he has other hobbies outside of work, he does focus on advising while he’s at OU.

This profession might not have been Bilinski’s first choice, but he’s satisfied with the work he’s done and the impact he makes on students.