By Brianna Gleghorn
Change is coming to the academic advising structure at Youngstown State University, requiring some adjustments within each college.
According to the National Academic Advising Association, academic advising is seen as a learning process and “requires a pedagogy that incorporates the preparation, facilitation, documentation and assessment of advising interactions.”
In a strategic planning questionnaire given to YSU students and faculty, a question asked, “From your experience, what are some of the barriers to Academic Excellence, Student Success and Mutually Beneficial Community Engagement?”
The questionaire results showed that advising appears to be a struggle for students in different colleges, leading them to question the availability and limited resources provided.
Martha Pallante, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said her college is looking to require mandatory advising beyond students’ first year.
“We are looking to make some changes,” Pallante said. “We discussed and as a college have agreed that we would like all students to do at least two check-ins after 30 credit hours.”
She said students who have completed 45 to 60 hours and 75 to 90 hours would have to keep their adviser updated to ensure they are on track to graduate.
“We just think it’s a really good idea that people don’t wait until they’ve got 90 hours to start,” Pallante said. “We know for a fact that students who do see advisers stay on track to graduate quicker.”
The college is beginning to focus more on the students who are experiencing academic issues, according to Pallante.
“We’re asking the students who’ve been, for example, readmitted to the college after an academic suspension, to visit with our counseling intern here in the office two or three times a semester, to make regular appointments to keep them on track” she said.
Pallante said there are steps being taken to make mandatory advising a part of the advising structure in her college.
“We’re waiting to find out how we make the change to that mandatory advising,” she said. “I’d like to see it in place by fall the very latest. I think that’s the thing we can do that can make the biggest impact right now.”
Charles Howell, dean of the Beeghly College of Education, said his college is encouraging advisers to discuss success strategies with students.
“They’re not just telling them what classes to take but also giving them suggestions about how to improve their academic record and be more successful,” he said.
While some colleges are in the process of making changes to their advising structure, the Cliffe College of Creative Arts and Communication has completed some recent changes.
Frank Nolasco, an academic adviser for CCAC, said his college switched its advising structure several years ago to include a new suite where all advising is conducted.
“Many students have faculty who are mentors and help them with things like that,” he said. “But if you have specific questions about what classes you should be taking, you definitely want to see an academic adviser here.”
Nolasco said he worked at a different university where advising was mandatory.
“Every student had to come through, and there was a pin on your account, and you couldn’t register no matter if you’re a freshman or if you’re a senior,” he said.
According to Nolasco, there are two sides to every advising structure.
“Do you let them be an advocate for themselves and earn and own their education? … Or do you kind of hold their hand and make sure that they get out of here in four years?” he said.
Nolasco said it is important to schedule an appointment before registering for classes to stay on track with the program.
“A lot of times students wait till after registration and the classes they want are full, or they don’t get the time of the day as they desire,” Nolasco said. “It kind of puts them behind schedule on their four-year plans.”
Brien Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs at YSU, said while hiring more advisers could be an option, there are other alternatives that can be overseen.
“Hiring more advisers is something that we would like to do,” Smith said. “Investing in talented individuals doesn’t come at zero cost, and so we often have to look at ways that we can invest in more advisers or alternate ways of making sure that students’ needs are met.”
He said while faculty advising can help provide enough advising for every student, the optimal option would be to have professional advisers. By Brianna Gleghorn/The Jambar
“If I had an unlimited check, I would do it that way,” Smith said. “I think there are other options, but we need to meet students’ needs when they have the need, and that’s the challenge.”
Claire Berardini, associate provost for student success, said teaching should be an essential part of advising.
“I would think if we approached advising like that, the first year of college would be a lot of teaching students how curriculum is formed and how their sequence and how all of this works,” she said.
Berardini said once students are confident in knowing their curriculum, the advisers can help them with more things like internships and jobs.
“It really is that one connection that a student can have,” she said. “Hopefully they feel comfortable talking about pretty much anything. And if they need help, we can provide a resource for them. That’s what we want to do.”
Mariana Rizzo, a freshman early childhood education major, said she believes she doesn’t have enough time during her advising appointments to understand her courses properly.
“In my honest opinion, I think it’s confusing,” she said. “The advisers are so fast to get us out that by the end of the appointment I’m not sure how my classes even work.”
In Rizzo’s opinion, there should be more explanation in the appointments about the curriculum.
“Instead of calling to schedule, something online and faster would be better,” she said. “Calling takes forever to reach anyone to even make an appointment.”
Although students can schedule advising appointments over the phone, several colleges use Handshake to schedule appointments.