USG, President Hennigan discuss changes to advising

Originally published in the Globe March 26, 2014

University President Paul Hennigan met with the United Student Government (USG) to discuss upcoming changes to student advising.

The University believes the changes to advising will not only help students graduate on time, but will also improve University retention and graduation rates, according to Hennigan.

“We want to make sure students get the guidance they need from the beginning,” said Hennigan Monday in the Student and Convocation Center. “Instead of getting to junior year and asking about internships, they’ll start talking about it freshman year.”

Incoming freshmen and transfers in the fall 2014 semester will be piloting the new advising initiative. All 800 expected freshmen and transfer students will be assigned two advisers, one faculty adviser and one student success coordinator, according to Hennigan. Faculty advisers will ensure students are on track academically, while student success coordinators will help students be prepared professionally.

“Those two together can be a very powerful tool for students,” said USG Vice President Evan Schall. “There was a lot of misunderstanding in the past. This will help clear up what people need to do and when they need to do it.”

The advisers will communicate about students’ needs and progress through the Finish Line software.

“[The advisers’ responsibilities] have got to be very complementary,” Hennigan said.  “The last thing we want is someone to hear one thing from their faculty adviser and then another from their success coordinator.”

Miscommunication and misinformation have been two significant complaints about advising in the past. University administration is now outlining clear responsibilities for faculty advisers and student success coordinators on what to address with advisees for each term. These “Pathways to Success” will differ for each department and for undecided students.

“So much of what goes on boils down to misinformation and lack of information,” said USG President Dillon Kunkle Monday in the Student and Convocation Center. “People fall through the cracks. Communication will be integral to [the new advising initiative].”

USG senators discussed some of the issues students faced such as being a transfer student, having an undecided major, wanting to add a double major or minor and those looking to graduate early.

For current students, there will be little change.

“At some point they’ll hop on the existing pathways,” Hennigan said. “The goal is for all students to have two advisers, but for now we’re focused on the new 800 [incoming freshmen and transfer students].”

The new advising initiative is still being crafted. One of the concerns raised were the consequences for students not meeting their advising requirements.

“Our job is to help you be as successful as you can,” said Michael Gieseke, adviser and senior assistant dean of Campus Life, during the meeting. “Some of this falls on students to do their part and not just ask what the University is doing for them. They also need to say ‘What am I doing for myself?’”

With the new advising will come the implementation of a new co-curricular transcript. The transcript will track how engaged students are with campus organizations and extracurricular activities.

“[Verified extracurriculars] will make you much more marketable as students,” said Dean of Students and Student Affairs Keith Paylo to USG during the meeting.

Hennigan will hold two student forums to address questions and concerns about the 2020 Initiative, which includes the new advising structure, today from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and April 1 from 3-4 p.m. in the JVH auditorium.

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