Wrapping Up a Semester of Change in Academic and Career Services

By Keith Mellinger, Interim Director, Academic and Career Services
It’s not often that someone gets to use more than one title in the same newsletter.  As Provost Levin noted in his article about organization changes, the committee searching for the next Director of Academic and Career Services will soon conduct campus interviews and the hope remains that this position will be filled sometime near the start of the spring semester. As I near the end of my temporary role leading the office while the search is underway, I wanted to offer a few comments and reflections about how our semester went as we took the first steps in implementing the holistic approach to academic and career advising for first-year students.

To say that we have learned a lot during these first few months is an enormous understatement! Beginning a new approach to providing advising and career services was daunting enough. But when you add in the sudden leadership change in the office that occurred in August, right about the time we were getting ready for new students to move in, and the further change with Amanda Kennedy’s resignation in November, I think you can appreciate just how challenging the semester has been.

I should pause to express my greatest thanks to the office staff that worked so hard and endured all the ups and downs with consistent effort, a professional demeanor, and a positive outlook. Without their considerable efforts, it’s hard to say where we would be right now.  Charlotte Corbett-Parker, Kim Lawson, and Rose Maddox have been extremely helpful to me as I learned office protocol, and the staff who advise the students, Jennifer Cirbus, Cody Harrison, Charles Tate, Bianca Faison, and Mary Becilia went above and beyond the call of duty on so many occasions. To all of you, I say thank you.  It is truly a pleasure to be a part of this office.

Those of you I see often know that I have really learned to appreciate the benefits of this approach to advising.  The staff is continuing to develop a consistent message which includes knowledge of academic programs, academic policy, university resources, and student support services.  I considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable as an advisor, and yet I have learned so much this semester about how to best serve our students.  As part of the effort to gain comprehensive information about all facets of our academic programs, the staff visited with 12 of the academic department chairs, plus the College of Education leadership team, the Center for International Education and the Financial Aid staff.  We remain ready to visit other departments and programs, too – just contact us to set something up. Or send us materials about your program that you would like for us to have and share with students when they make inquiries.

We held over 1000 individualized counseling and advising sessions for mostly first-year students, but also for our more advanced students seeking counsel on a variety of academic and career issues. And when it became apparent that a number of first-year students (close to 300) still had advising holds on their records when their registration appointment times were coming up, we held four special evening walk-in advising sessions. Attendance was through the roof with students lining up early.

Another of our important activities centers on the on-boarding of the new students we will welcome to UMW in the spring of 2014.  At this point, we have just over 80 new students who have paid deposits so far, with many more expected.  All new students are receiving welcoming phone calls from one of our Student Success Coordinators in November or December.  They are then invited in to our office for a more robust advising meeting (if that’s convenient) or to take part in a more comprehensive discussion over the phone or by email.

Students who are further along in their studies (such as transfer students) will be referred to the departments early in the process in order to gain more discipline-specific advising.  Seats are being held for our new students.  For students who are ready, we will start trying to enroll them in classes as soon as the student has been advised and has expressed course preferences and needs. But a number of new students will not have their records fully intact (missing AP credits, transcripts, etc.) until later.  As a result, we have set aside a special registration time for our new students to facilitate their registration.

All continuing students will be locked out of the Banner registration service on January 7 and 8.  This means that they will not be able to adjust their schedules at that time; all registration activity will be restricted to our new students.  At this time, the course seats we have been holding back for new students who start in January will be released and all new students will be invited to register or to adjust their schedules if they had registered for something previously as a result of conferences they had had with Academic and Career Services.

On January 9, registration will open up to all UMW students as well as non-degree seeking students. Continuing students will be notified.  Orientation and move in for new students will take place beginning on Friday, January 10, with a number of different sessions planned for new students. Here is the current January Orientation schedule.

As always, contact us when you have questions or concerns regarding academic advising, the various academic support services, career counseling, or internships.

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