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Jim de Vera, student advisor for the Davis School, helps each student make the most of his or her gerontology education. He forges and maintains bonds with students that endure from before the first semester to years after graduation.

No matter the subject, enrolling in a university degree program can be a daunting experience full of questions and tough choices. Fortunately, for students of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, Jim De Vera is there to help them navigate the process.
De Vera, the Davis School’s student advisor since 2007, is mainly responsible for helping students with academic advisement, course planning, and registration. However, he makes himself available for almost any student query and prides himself on knowing how each student is doing as they progress through their program.

“I try to treat each person as an individual instead of just another student in the program. I encourage students to keep in touch throughout the program so I know what they’ve been up to,” De Vera says. “In my role as the academic advisor, if I notice something strange, I’ve been known to contact the student to make sure it’s taken care of before it becomes an issue. Although I always tell students it’s their responsibility to complete all the degree requirements, I try to be there as much as I can to help.”

Over the years, De Vera has forged many lasting relationships with Davis School students, and he has stayed in touch with many graduates via Facebook. His care and assistance have made a huge differences in the careers and lives of many students.

“If they ever need to talk to someone about something personal, I’m usually around and we can chat privately. If I need to, I can refer them to where they need to go for further help in whatever issue they are facing,” De Vera adds. “I try to be more than their student advisor; I can be many roles to the students as they need me. I can be the academic advisor, the counselor, the cheerleader, the coach, or the friend.”

One of the many Davis School graduates who have expressed their deep appreciation for De Vera’s service is Margo Tucker, a 2011 recipient of a graduate certificate in gerontology. In thanks for his help during her program and his continued friendship, Tucker sent De Vera a unique gift: a large box full of Lifesaver candies.

“The Lifesaver gift to Jim was inspired because I felt that Jim was my “lifesaver” as I was trying to navigate the challenges of academics as a distance learner,” Tucker says. “He is an amazing individual, and I wanted to return the same amount of encouragement as was extended to me.”

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