Skip to main content
ArticleResidential Life

The First Call: Tilton’s Advisory Program

Advisory is a staple of boarding school culture. For students living away from home and families entrusting an institution with the well-being of their loved ones, a student’s advisor is often more than a resource on campus.

“We both see advisory as a place to drive culture,” says Assistant Dean for Student Support and Assistant Director of Athletics Emily Johnson, on behalf of herself and Social Sciences faculty member Connor Compton. Ahead of the 2023-24 academic year, Johnson and Compton added Co-Advisory Coordinator to their already extensive roles on campus with the goal of impacting students, faculty, and families.

“Having a great approach to Advisory is important in helping our teachers, coaches, and community members — who have a lot going on in their lives — not feel like they’re alone in this work,” says Compton, who (along with Johnson) also coaches lacrosse and hockey. “It’s important to have a collective message about why Advisory is important and what our students deserve to get out of the experience.”

To that end, the duo worked with incoming Dean of Community Life David Suarez over the summer on instituting a new curriculum that would help guide weekly Advisory sessions and establish best practices and protocols for assessing progress and establishing community values over the course of the year. 

“When we started our work in August, he [Suarez] had found Habitudes, which provides an intentional framework for social and emotional learning that can be broken into 20-minute lessons,” says Compton. The goal, they both say, was to find something that would provide additional structure and be a sustainable way of building the Advisory program over the course of several years. Not only can Habitudes, which was developed by the group Growing Leaders, be customized to fit Tilton and its unique community, but the program can be extrapolated out to a four-year experience. This means that students who arrive as 9th graders get an Advisory that builds on their learning and helps guide them through their entire time on the Hill. 

1 of 5 |

This progression, says Compton, not only elevates the program, but it also helps create a healthy environment of accountability for all parties. “We know all the touch points, so if a student is struggling or they’ve been away, we have the tools to make sure it gets covered. At the end of the day, Advisory is about belonging, and the main role of an advisor is to make sure that students feel like they have a group outside of their dorm, their team, or their class; it’s like a mini family.”

“Teams change, activities change, classes ebb and flow,” agrees Johnson. “Advisors remain the one constant point of contact.”

In thinking about how the overarching program affects the community, Johnson also reflects that they are delivering a similar message to the students. “The lesson we’re doing tomorrow is called ‘Emotional Fuel’,” she says. The lesson is one of 13 her group will cover over the course of the year as part of the Habitudes program, which uses imagery and relatable stories to drive leadership development. “How do you fuel your tank and how do other people fuel yours? I think the biggest thing I’ve tried to drive home with my group is for them to be mindful about how their actions affect others.”

Johnson’s Advisory group, which is made up of all female students who also participate in athletics, offers her an opportunity to take the pre-established curriculum and personalize it for the students she’s gotten to know so well. She and Compton led a workshop at the beginning of the year that encouraged this exact thing.

“We want our advisors to dig deep into their own personal toolbox,” says Compton. “Personalizing the lessons not only strengthens relationships with students but also gives them an opportunity to engage further and see the social-emotional skills in practice.”

At the end of the day, they say, it all comes back to being authentic.

“No matter how much we use Habitudes,” says Compton, “there still need to be genuine Tilton components to our program. We want it to be part of our culture where all kids feel a part of our community and a sense of ownership and belonging over that experience.”

"We see our advisory program as a place to drive culture."
Emily Johnson
Co-Advisory Coordinator

Related Articles

Article Academics

Parent Perspective: The Tilton Family

Article Academics

Top 7 Reasons to Attend Boarding School

Article Academics

What’s Special About Tilton’s Ninth-Grade Seminar