For Amanda Suarez, CC ’14, Dean of Advising Monique Rinere is the person who has turned her Columbia career around. After a negative experience with her adviser last year, Suarez heard from a friend that Rinere would “change your life” and decided to set up an appointment with her.
The instant Suarez sat down in her office, Rinere started writing down every detail of her life that Suarez told her and memorized her name. Since then, Rinere has helped her deal with everything from the financial aid office to her personal life.
That “holistic” approach to advising drives both Rinere’s one-on-one interactions with her advisees and her management of the Center for Student Advising, which she finished overhauling in August 2010.
Rinere, whose mother was a “farm girl” and whose father grew up “on the streets of Brooklyn,” said she received almost no guidance from her parents about higher education and “stumbled” into college. Her advising conversations with her German and harpsichord teachers helped her work through personal and academic challenges and ultimately led her to her passion for advising.
“One of the things that both of them did was allow me the space and time to meander in my thinking through advising conversations about the ways in which I wanted to shape my life,” Rinere said. “I realized that every student would benefit from having a safe place to wander through imagined lives and futures.”
At a school where students don’t hesitate to complain about bureaucracy, Rinere’s personability sticks out, advisees said. Rinere uses a technique she calls “narrative advising” in which the adviser “continuously elicits a student’s personal story.” Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, said that the technique is part of why she thinks Rinere is such an effective adviser. She explained that Rinere asks her about everything from her social life to her extracurricular activities and notes any changes since their last meeting.
“If she sees a problem spot with you, she helps you,” Habbu said. “She takes an interest in the quality of your life.”
While Habbu appreciates that Rinere gives “well-measured, good advice,” she also explained that she doesn’t pull any punches. Habbu recalled one piece of particularly straightforward guidance Rinere gave her when she wasn’t studying enough during her sophomore year: “She sat me down and was like, ‘This is a wake up call. Get your ass back to the books, and if you don’t do this, you won’t get into medical school,’” Habbu said. “My parents told me that, my brother had told me that, but having Dean Rinere tell me, ‘You’re an idiot, stop it’ was really helpful.”
Assistant Dean of Advising Robert Ferraiuolo said Rinere was a “participative manager and leader” who’s always willing to engage with her staff.
“Whenever we’re in those crunch times, in the office for endless hours, I think her presence is energizing,” Ferraiuolo said. “It’s always obvious that she’s working as hard or harder than we are.”
Associate Director of Advising Monica Avitsur said Rinere isn’t all work and no play—she’s also an “amazing” cook (her best dishes include key lime pie and bread pudding, Avitsur said), an avid harpsichordist, and, judging by her costume last Halloween, a disco star.
“She’s not afraid of having fun and jumping in,” Avitsur said.
Habbu emphasized that Rinere’s personal connection to her students makes her an effective adviser.
“She just really cares,” Habbu said. “She actually cares about every single person who walks into her office, which means so much.”