Advising meetings allow students and faculty to connect

J’Mari HughesCopy Editor

Whether they are informing students what classes are necessary or helping them make a schedule, class advisers are available on campus to aid students throughout their academic year. According to Southern’s website, the Advisement Center’s objective is to assist new and transfer students, as well as undeclared majors, in choosing courses required by Southern’s general education and core curriculum.

“I think they’re helpful because a lot of people — if they’re a freshman or they’re a transfer student — they don’t know exactly what they need to do in order to succeed and to take certain types of classes,” said communications major Nicholas Soucy, a junior.

Tracy Tyree, vice president for student affairs, said, last year, Southern launched a new model of advising for undergraduate students that grants departments the opportunity to start connecting with students as soon as possible, so by the second semester of a student’s first year, he or she is working with an academic department.

“There were lots of students falling through the cracks, there were lots of students who — when they would change majors or they wouldn’t be admitted to a major or they were struggling academically or they were undeclared — that really didn’t have a solid landing place to get them on the path to a new area of academic study,” she said, “so all of that motivated the university to really say we need to have an effective, clear consistent advising experience.”

Professional advisers and faculty coordinators, she said, are in Academic Advising Centers, located in Engleman Hall and the Wintergreen building, to assist students who know their interests, but have not landed on a successful path to their major. Last year, the center began a business and STEM AAC, and this year social and behavioral sciences, and arts and humanities.

Next year, she said they plan to start advising for education and health and human services.

Tyree said advisers have been thoughtful about the state of being “undeclared,” however, it will now become an “exploratory” major in order to avoid students seeming as if they do not know what they want to do.

“We’ve launched a new initiative to rename that ‘exploratory’ and really be very intentional working with students about what it means to explore their major,” she said. “Even understanding that all students are in an exploratory journey because having decided that something isn’t fit, doesn’t mean that that’s where you’ve landed. So it’s really recognizing that students, even when they declare initially, are still exploring to know what that means and whether it’s the right fit and whether they’re going to thrive in that major.”

When all is said and done, she said, students will know their adviser and how to find them. The advising centers also aim to improve the interdisciplinary studies with more faculty working with those IDS students, and wants to create a place for all students to feel supported to get working towards their major. Students will soon be able to work with faculty with the skill-set and training to help them at different points of their academic career.

“We’re trying to create a consistent experience that all students can have
a strong relationship with an adviser,” Tyree said, “and really plan their academic journey from an early point and really feel confident in how they’re going to approach that journey or if they face a roadblock, they know who to turn to and get the support and help that they need.”

Advising, she said, is more than course selections and PIN numbers, and is rather a relationship between students and their advisors that helps them think comprehensively about their area of study as it is
leading to a degree and success after a degree, whether in studying abroad, graduate schools or employment.

“Some students still need [advising] because sometimes a class looks like you may need it, but in reality, there’s a difference in the CRN number,” said film and television major Francisco Ramos, a junior. “You can get one class mixed up with another, so it’s always good to go back [with your adviser] and double-check.” Ramos said, in his experience, his adviser helped him by showing
him exactly what classes he needs to graduate and what will help him in his future post-college.

When talking to advisers, he said, it is important to make sure they understand if a student is struggling to ensure the success of student in school.

“We think this is an incredibly important and meaningful move for the university to better support students and the advising relationship,” Tyree said, “and we look forward to the impact it can have on students’ ability to persist to a degree.”

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