200 Days in the Life of the College

Monday, February 7

With freedom to choose, sage advice is crucial

By Lauren Howe ’13

Edna Rodriguez-Plate, associate professor of Hispanic studies, is at her desk responding to emails. They include responses from students in the classes she teaches and questions from advisees about course registration and concentration requirements. It’s a normal day for Rodriguez-Plate, who has been teaching at Hamilton since 2008 and advising a dozen or so Hispanic studies majors each year. This spring, she also has three senior thesis advisees, which she loves. “My door is open, I really care about my students,” she says.

Ysmerlyn “Izzy” Baez ’11, a double major in government and Hispanic studies who was born in the Dominican Republic, chose Professor Rodriguez-Plate as both her concentration and thesis advisor. Baez describes their interactions as a journey of self-discovery and self-criticism: “She’s a really good critic who isn’t scared to tell you what you’re doing wrong so that you can fix it.”

Baez can also identify with her adviser, a native of Puerto Rico, because they are both Latina women who understand the complexities of moving to the U.S. from a foreign country. While the two seem to have a special bond, Rodriguez-Plate enjoys advising in general and sharing her perspective. “I chose to be at a liberal arts college, to be able to have that kind of relationship with students,” she says — “to teach in a place where you can make a difference.”

Such collaborative, interpersonal relationships are crucial at Hamilton, which has 50 areas of study and no core curriculum. So advisers such as Rodriguez-Plate help students with course selection, study-abroad options and personal matters. Juggling academic demands, extracurricular activities and post-college plans isn’t easy, but Rodriguez-Plate advises her students to stay calm: “Don’t get all confused, live in the present moment, but look at the big picture! What’s going to really matter in 10 years?”