Academic advisors are assigned within the student’s major, and serve as a way to reach out for guidance with course planning, workload and several other facets of the college experience. Students can find their academic advisor at the top of their Degree Audit Reporting System, or DARS.
Carey Snyder, advising coordinator for the English department, describes the student-advisor relationship to be focused around helping guide students on their chosen life paths.
“We aim to help them figure out what they want to do in the future and, in a way, what kind of person they want to be,” Snyder said. “So, we give them opportunities and internships and apprenticeships and recommend courses that might help them find that pathway to the future.”
Students most often interact with their advisors during scheduling, when they are required to meet to discuss course planning for the next semester. This helps students determine what types of courses are available in their areas of interest, while still making sure that they are on track to graduate on time.
Though advisors are often seen as an academic resource, they provide support for students in many different ways.
“Anytime the student is feeling a little bit lost, especially this past year with COVID-19, if they're feeling isolated or not connected, that's a time to reach out,” Jana Hovland, advising coordinator for the dietetics/nutrition program, said.
Brogan Speraw, a senior studying mechanical engineering, said students should facilitate a relationship where they feel comfortable approaching their advisor with any college-related challenges.
“Your advisor isn't just your academic advisor, they are an advisor,” Speraw said. “You go to them when you need help. ‘Hey, I need direction here, what should I do?’”
A significant characteristic of the advising relationship is that ideally, it is student led, Snyder said. Communication on the part of the student helps advisors better guide them to overcome problems and accomplish goals.
“The more students do feel like their education is their responsibility and the more proactive they are, the more we can help them because the more we understand … what they're curious about or what they want to know more about or what they might want to do in the future,” Snyder said.
Students can reach out to their advisors with questions ranging from course recommendations to helpful resources on campus. If a question is outside their scope of expertise, advisors are able to assist in finding appropriate campus resources.
When it comes to contacting an academic advisor, Hovland suggests a quick email when a student has a question about something like prerequisites or courses. However, for students who are struggling to choose an area of study or are faced with more significant challenges, it is best to set up a meeting, either in-person or virtually.
Ultimately, cultivating a more personal relationship helps new students communicate with their advisors, Speraw said.
“I think we all get in ourselves with, ‘That's a professor,’ not, ‘This is a person (that) could be my friend as well,” Speraw said. “I think what's helped me thrive here is trying to talk to professors like they're my friends.”