A sign with the words “Start Here” hangs at the entrance to BYU’s University Advisement Center (UAC). Heidi Engh was looking for exactly that—a place to start—when she walked into the UAC as a young psychology major seeking advice on courses and career options. “I always thought of working in education,” she recalls, “but I didn't really know which area.” For Engh, that experience working with an advisor set in motion a cycle that has defined her career.
Engh’s advisor was Kerry Hammock, who has been guiding students at the UAC for over 30 years. “He helped me out so much,” Engh says of Hammock. His questions and the conversations that followed sparked a crucial realization for Engh: “I want to do what you do,” she told Hammock. Engh went one step further, asking Hammock, “Is there a way for me to intern here?”
Hammock created an internship for her, and Engh’s career started right there at the UAC. Now, as an advisor at BYU Marriott’s Undergraduate Advisement office, Engh carries on the cycle of advice, helping students start and sustain their own undergraduate journeys.
Engh brings years of college advising experience to her position at BYU Marriott. “I was able to get my first job in an advising center in Arizona after I graduated, and that was such a great learning experience,” Engh says. Engh spent eight years advising students in Arizona, first at Maricopa Community College and then at Arizona State University. She also received her master's degree in educational psychology from Northern Arizona University. In 2016, Engh landed her current advisement position at the business school and circled back to BYU—the place where her advising career began.
Engh spends a lot of time helping students navigate the admissions process for the two programs she specifically works with: finance and experience design and management (ExDM). As applications are reviewed and scored, “sometimes the difference between who's admitted and who isn't admitted can be as small as a quarter of a point,” Engh says. In one-on-one meetings, Engh partners with students to polish their applications and make sure they’ve met all requirements for admission.
For any student who has their eye on acceptance to a BYU Marriott program, Engh has two important pieces of advice. First, “Come early.” The earlier students meet with Engh or advisors like her, the more they can help. Second, “Don’t give up.” Finding the right program and getting accepted requires effort, and persistence is key.
Engh practices persistence in her own life as she continuously takes classes to broaden her knowledge and stay in touch with students. “Taking classes on campus helps me to empathize and not be too removed from the student experience,” she shares. So far, Engh has audited courses in finance, information systems, mental health, and even tennis.
The course Engh is currently taking on mediation and conflict management has given her new strategies for advisement. “I was able to bring up some principles from class with a particular student who was struggling with a professor,” Engh shares. With advice from Engh, the student was able to initiate a conversation with her professor rather than just dropping the class.
In addition to one-on-one advisement meetings, Engh teaches classes that help students find their focus in the business school and beyond. “A goal of mine was to teach in the classroom,” Engh shares—a goal she achieved by leading a one-credit survey course that introduces students to all the majors offered at BYU Marriott.
Engh now teaches a student development class on career exploration that draws students from across campus. “The class helps students navigate big decisions in life and learn more about themselves and how that fits with a career,” Engh says. She loves collaborating with diverse students to tackle both small details like class schedules and big-picture questions like post-graduation goals.
Although there is no typical day in the life of a college advisor, Engh’s responsibilities tend to follow a pattern. In the summer, she assists students with registration and helps the office ramp up for the new school year. Fall is busy with incoming students and the career exploration class Engh teaches. Winter brings many aspiring ExDM and finance students into Engh’s office for advisement appointments as they prepare for looming application deadlines. And in spring, Engh helps students prepare for graduation.
Engh describes her job as “cyclical” because the pattern resets each year. But beneath this seasonal cycle, the deeper cycle of receiving and giving advice that started with Hammock at the UAC also plays on in Engh’s office—a place that invites students to “Start Here.”
Writer: Shannon Keeley