The Academic Advising Center (AAC) is looking to change common misperceptions about its services.
At the President’s Forum in February, Student Association brought forward concerns from nearly 140 students who were unhappy with what they said was a lack of information on the advising center’s part. The majority of concerns involved the center not having information on specific degree programs.
According to Daniel Strasz, director of academic advising, students should turn to their academic departments instead of the AAC when they need detailed information about their major.
“If you’re getting into the nitty gritty of your major, you really need to work with your department on those kinds of things,” he said.
He said students should talk with department chairs or faculty advisers if they need information about internships and certain class offerings, especially if students are upperclassmen.
Craig Aimar, assistant vice president of enrollment management, said the AAC helps students learn basic skills, such as learning about general education classes, picking a major and navigating Cardinal Direct.
With more than 70 academic programs offered, Aimar said it’s difficult for the five advisers in the office to know specifics for all 70 programs in addition to teaching basic skills.
“When we talk about student success, we want them to engage with their faculty and start working with them,” he said. “Our advisers are very knowledgeable, but to a certain extent.”
He added the advisers do their best to know the latest requirements for degree programs by regularly meeting with departments.
Aimar said the responses from the Student Association surprised him because it contradicted information gathered by the AAC from student visits.
Since January, students are required to swipe their IDs each time they enter and exit the office. Aimar said it allows the center to collect real-time data based on responses from 100 percent of students who come to the center.
Results from the anonymous survey show a high rate of student satisfaction. 93 percent and 94 percent of students rate the quality and helpfulness of advising as good to excellent.
“I’ll take that any day of the week,” Aimar said.
More than 60 percent of students who come to the center are freshmen and sophomores, which Aimar said is “rightfully so” with the types of services offered.
However, he said the center will help any student who walks in and it will not turn anyone away. He pointed to visits from a handful of graduate students who have visited the center since January, even though the center is meant to advise undergraduate students.
After the President’s Forum in February, President Eric Gilbertson had concerns about registration and set up a task force of nearly a dozen members from different departments on campus.
Strasz said two things became apparent as the task force worked together. If students had a problem with billing, blame was usually placed on Financial Aid. If students had a problem with degree audits or registration, the AAC was often blamed.
He said this was interesting to discover because “none of those things have anything to do with us.”
“We’re looking at all different systems to see how we can really make improvements on things,” he said.
As a result of the task force, Aimar said “students’ voices were heard” and a Course Request Form will be offered for fall registration.
If a class is closed, filled or not offered, students will have the opportunity to go to a website and request it.
If a high demand is seen for a specific class, the dean of the respective college may decide to open a new section for that class.
Aimar said there are certain limitations with the form. Students are unable to give preferential times or days, and requesting classes that require a lab might be more difficult to offer because there is a certain number of labs on campus.
Strasz said the center will also continue working on programs implemented last year to ease the registration process.
Certain days in the weeks leading up to registration will be dedicated to advising students in certain class standings. Strasz said this strategy is successful in managing traffic flow to the center.
The center will also continue mobile advising in dorms, the peer advisers program and emailing students specific information about registration eligibility.
Aimar said the combination of these programs is meant to help students be as successful as possible during their time at the University.
“With our communications and our strategies, I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.