There are momentous occasions in a person's life that you simply have to stop and celebrate. A wedding. A new job. A new house. A new baby.
Ray Saavedra, who recently joined the Temple Ambler team as an Academic Advisor 2, just happened to celebrate them all in one year.
"So much happened this past year. I got married to my wife Tori, I got a promotion, I moved, I had a baby (three-month-old Rowan)," said Saavedra. "All of life's stressors sort of happens all at once. Then I ran the Broad Street run — I'm definitely getting my Philly experience in. Next thing I have to do is go to an Eagles game!"
As an academic advisor, Saavedra has made it his mission to help students through their own set of stressors.
"Advisors not only help students find their purpose, we help guide them to live that purpose. Advisors wear a lot of hats," he said. "Of course, we help students with course selection, but sometimes you'll be the person to hear complaints and hopefully you can work together to find solutions. Sometimes students just need someone to talk to. An advisor is all of those things."
While Saavedra is new to the Temple Ambler team, he is not new to Temple. Prior to coming to the Ambler Campus, he was an Academic Advisor for the College of Liberal Arts, providing administrative counsel and personal guidance by interpreting the relevant academic policies and guidelines for the university and college and by offering an objective analysis of students' academic records and academic and professional goals.
"My time as an academic advisor for the College of Liberal Arts was very enlightening. I learned a lot about myself, both professionally and personally — I wanted to challenge myself," he said. "I've always wanted to be of service to people. That's the main reason why I came into higher education. There are different students on different paths in life who have their own challenges. I want to see how I can help them achieve their goals."
Originally from California — "born and bred" — Saavedra said he made the move to the East Coast "not realizing the College of Liberal Arts is the second largest college at Temple."
"It took a little while to learn how to navigate this new experience but over time I had my advising regulars who would come to see me. In that time, I learned a lot about not just the university, but also the East Coast — the state, the people, the weather," he said. "I saw the opening at Temple — we don't have any family or connections here or connections — and my wife and I took the leap and made the move. She knew it would be a good place to begin my career path. It was a big change, overwhelming at times, but we've never regretted making the decision to come here."
What initially drew Saavedra to academic advising as a profession "was having that academic advisor myself who had a major role and major impact in my life — someone who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself at times," he said.
"I was a first-generation college student. Having somebody who was like 'Hey, it's going to be okay. How can we highlight what you're good at?' helped me truly understand the importance of education in my life," he said. "The idea giving back, paying it forward, of making a difference in someone's life stayed with me and I felt that academic advising was a role what would enable me to do that."
Prior to arriving at Temple, Saavedra was a Mentor in Athletics Academic Services at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), where he provided academic and life skills support services for CSUF student-athletes that encouraged timely graduation.
He was also part of the Athletics Sport Management Preceptor and Internship Program in the Athletic Department for Riverside City College. He worked in conjunction with the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance on Education, monitoring and ensuring the enforcement of the college and California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) rules and regulations. He additionally assisted with administering the National Letter of Intent program for incoming student-athletes.
"At CSUF I was able to be more hands on with the students, helping get their lives together, whether it was organizing tutoring or study hours or getting to practice," he said. "It was rewarding to help these students develop patterns that incorporated good habits."
Having experience working with student athletes with unique needs and requirements, Saavedra was ready to hit the ground running as academic advisor for students in Temple's Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program. The BGS program, offered through Temple's University College, is designed specifically for adult learners with prior college and at least 60 transferable credits who are ready to complete their undergraduate degree.
"The BGS program is essentially the final stop toward being able to get that bachelor's degree. Being part of that process and helping them achieve that goal — some of the transcripts I've reviewed date back to the 1970s, 80s and 90s — it's very gratifying," she said. "The BGS program has an incredible group of students. You know they want to be here and are ready to put in the work to cross that finish line at a time when college isn't their sole focus — they have family, work, and all of their other responsibilities. Seeing that they want to come back and complete that degree is inspiring."
Saavedra additionally advises students in the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs offered by the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, teaches the Why Care About College General Education course and will assist with new student orientation.
"What drew me to the position at Temple Ambler was that I wanted to continue to grow as an advisor. I want to see how I can build upon my skills and add to this campus and University College as a whole," he said. "My goal is to help students discover everything that Temple Ambler or the BGS program has to offer. I want to encourage students to take classes here and become part of the Temple Ambler community. My hope is students gain a sense of involvement and community — I think those are major pillars that form the basis of what Temple Ambler is all about."