INSIDE Chico State
0 February 17, 2000
Volume 30 Number 13
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Bechtol is 1999-2000 Outstanding Adviser

Bruce Bechtol, Geography and Planning, is the Outstanding Adviser for 1999-2000. (photo Jeff Teeter)
Bruce Bechtol, Geography and Planning, is the Outstanding Adviser for 1999-2000. (photo Jeff Teeter)

 

Bruce Bechtol, Geography and Planning, has been selected as the university's Outstanding Adviser for 1999 - 2000. Now in his final year as a professor and adviser, Bechtol's legacy is the legion of students he refers to as "an extended family" and students and former students who refer to him as one of the most influential people of their college careers.

Bechtol credits his advisers when he was an undergraduate student at Chico State for setting the example. Bechtol has emulated the availability, openness, conscientiousness, and commitment to students of his most admired advisers and teachers. He remembers Charles Monson, a philosophy professor who returned Friday's essay exam on Monday, and "he'd written more on your exam than you had, all sorts of insights and comments."

When Bechtol came to Chico State in 1956 he met people who kept their doors open, such as Lew Oliver, Lois Christensen, and Bruce Ogleby. "These people were good. They listened; they gave good advice," he said.

Listening and availability are two primary characteristics of a good adviser, according to Bechtol. He couldn't imagine confining either himself or his students to the limitations of fficial office hours. Bechtol is often in his office with the door open. "I'm like the Maytag repairman. Nobody comes to see me," he tells his students, who laugh -- and then drop in to see him.

Bechtol listens to students talk about their interests. When students are unsure of majors or classes, Bechtol suggests an exercise: take a piece of notebook paper and draw a line down the middle. On the right, list the things you never want to do, and on the left list the things you definitely want to do. Bechtol suggests starting with the things you never want to do (his own list begins with "eating liver"). Once students have done this, Bechtol sees his role like the maitre d' of a restaurant. "You guide them to the buffet and say, 'We've got shrimp, we've got beef. Sample a lot of things, find out what you really like, and then you can eat all you like of something you really want.'"

One piece of advice he offers to students who are interested in teaching is to consider it carefully. Teaching and advising are callings, not jobs, he believes. He jokes that his wife greets the new school year by saying, "Okay, school has started. See you in June."

Bechtol's dedication to students is evident in the time he devotes to advising and keeping in touch -- from weekend meetings with current students to on-going correspondence with former advisees decades after they've left Chico. While everyone in the department is expected to advise students, Bechtol is the adviser for forty percent of the geography department's undergraduates. Of a sample of 110 completed departmental master's theses, Bechtol was either committee chair or a member for 48 percent.

He believes students must find what is best for them. For Bechtol, "The part I like best is seeing people end up doing things they're happy with, and I don't really care what that is. I don't try to make them anything. It's up to them."

After three decades it is to be expected that Bechtol would run into the children of his former students. Bill Wickman, a former student, credits Bechtol with helping him complete his undergraduate work and helping him with his graduate studies. Lynsey Wickman followed her dad's advice and sought out Bechtol's help with classes.

When asked how it felt to advise the children of former students, Bechtol replied, "Well, you start seriously considering retirement." He enjoys seeing the growth of the extended family but said, "I don't think I'll be here for the grandkids." -- BA

 

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