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ORM Podcast: Begin Your Academic Adventure With Advising Transcript


Hi everyone and welcome to this week's episode of the Online Road Map podcast, sponsored by WVU Online. I'm here today with Freddy McDonald and Freddy is the Director of Advising and Recruitment for the Center for Learning, Advising, and Student Success. Also as our students know it a CLASS. So I'd like to welcome your Freddy to the show.

Thanks so much, Amber. I really appreciate the opportunity to come on and, and talk with everyone about. Advising and how it pertains to summer at WVU. And Maymester and I just want to say you got the name, correct? Right. So the center for learning, advising and student success is a really long name. So we refer to ourselves as CLASS because if we kept spelling it out, we would make this twice as long. So good job on that.

Thank you. It took some practicing as you all know before the show, so, so great. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. We're excited to have you with us, and I like to kick off the share by just having you to go ahead and introduce yourself and any, anything about you that you'd like to mention.

And then also your affiliation with the university. We know you're with CLASS, but anything else that you want to add in there? Sure. So thanks so much. So, as you mentioned, you know, my name's Freddy McDonald. I'm the director of advising and recruitment for the Center for Learning, Advising, and Student Success or CLASS as we call it.

So what I do is, is I oversee advising operations for CLASS and Class supports students who are undecided or who are currently within a pre major seeking admission to one of WVU colleges or schools that grants undergraduate degrees. And so we work very closely with our students to help them plan out their, their courses, you know, to make sure that they're being timely and progression to their major, to their college, to their school, but also, you know, going so much beyond that.

The advice of take these courses during these semesters, you know, advisors are really a resource to students to help them out, to talk about what WVU offers and, and how they can make the most out of their college experience. So in addition to, to kind of advising, I worked very closely with new student orientation and that process coming through, especially as we are approaching summer now, and then also with the academic advising council or the AAC.

Works closely to advance advising and make sure that our advisors have a community to fall on one another and, you know, best support our students through our advising practices. Yeah. Very cool. I know advising is a hot topic, especially with our student community. I know it's something that we get asked about a lot, so I'm very excited to have you here to go through some of this information with us.

So can you give us just a little bit of background and what WB offers in terms of advising services? Right. That's a great question. And I will, I wish I could say that there was one answer. But it really depends on the student's major department, their college, their school. I will say that every student is assigned an academic advisor, you know, when they come to WVU and whether that is a primary role advisor or a faculty advisor, Or someone else who has advising responsibilities that really varies on department or major college school.

But they are, you know, every student is assigned to an advisor who is their point person. Should they have any questions naturally for students who are seeking that, that bachelor's degree at WVU, they have to meet with their advisor at least one time each semester to kind of touch base. See how things are going in this semester and also to make plans for future semesters as well.

So advising can be very, very different depending on, on the student's major or department. But those two primary types of advisors are going to be those primary role advisors or full-time advisors or faculty advisors within specific departments or majors. Yeah, that's great. So just kind of on that subject a little bit more, I know that you said advisors are assigned, or students are assigned to advisors.

Once they're admitted to the university, how soon would you recommend a student to reach out to an advisor? That's a really good question, Amber, and it really depends on when the student is coming into the institution. So naturally through the application and admissions process, a student may work with multiple different people, whether it's a regional recruiter, I'm a transfer recruiter.

They may be walking, working with representatives from the registrar's office within their college or school, within the office of admissions. But that really, that that relationship really starts during new student orientation. When students meet with us. They're an academic advisor with their department in order to start planning courses for the fall or for a spring semester.

But at any point in time, you know, during a student's academic career, that advisor is there to help them. So. Most advisors are 12 month employees. So they are here all year round. So if students have questions that advisor can be that person, even if it's not academic related, it can be a person or a resource that a student can reach out to in order to ask questions.

And if the advisor doesn't know, they can, you know, direct them to the correct unit or office on campus to help them, or oftentimes they'll find out the answer and report back to the student, what the answers are. Yeah, that's great advice too. I know in my previous role university, I was, I was in advising as well.

And you know, you get all kinds of questions, right? Not just about like planning the schedule, but also about those resources. So I love that little piece there to Freddy that they're not just there to map out your schedule, which is great. That is, that is definitely something that they can help you do.

And that they're there for, but also just a great resource at the university to connect you to whomever. You know, at the university that you need to get in contact with. So I love that little piece that yeah. That you had there too. So may master, we know is new this year. We're super excited. Finally, this is something that I feel like I've been waiting for four years, but so we're finally getting there this year and, you know, we know it can be beneficial for students.

You know to take a Maymester course to take a summer course what are some of the benefits that, that your team and that you see as advisors that the students may have from taking a summer or a Maymester course? Like what are the benefits to students? So I think there are a lot of benefits.

In that summer semester or that summer term, whether that's through Maymester or whether that's through, you know, longer than that Maymester during that regular summer term. So, you know, I think one thing is students can use summer to work ahead. To get courses out of the way that, you know, are major requirements or that are really going to help them through the progression of their coursework, or they can use it to catch up as well.

You know, some students who changed their major, they may be behind in a progression of, of courses, maybe math or science to some capacity or a foreign language. You know, summer can really help students catch up because of the way that it's designed. You know, with, with multiple parts of term, students can get through possibly two courses of a, of a subject progression rather than just one that would take through the, you know, through a regular term, through a fall or spring term.

But also I think for students who have, you know, maybe particular anchors or maybe some nervousness going into a subject or a course that they aren't completely confident in their abilities. There are lots of resources, academic resources to help with that. But some are allows a time to, for the student to really focus just on that course or just on that subject to really knock that out.

You know, they're not preoccupied with their other subjects being a full-time student during that time potentially. But they can really take that time and focus part of their summer on completing a course that maybe they're a little, you know, it's kind of demand a little bit more of their attention.

Yeah. It's nice to be able to, to kind of zero in on a course and get it done, knock it out and then you're done and you can move on or, you know, if you need to retake a class or whatever, we see students come from all different areas, right. To take summer may master. So yeah. So definitely also a good piece of advice there that they can, you know, use the term to help, you know, just continue to accelerate their, their degree and move forward in their degree or whatever their academic journey may be.

So back to resources, I know we talked about this and you touched a little bit on it. Just again, I know that there are resources available during summer and during Maymester, what resources would you recommend to students? They may not be aware of, of everything that's available. So are there any resources that you would.

Like to point out to students that we can still utilize during summer and Maymester or, you know, that might be available for them to use. So there are, you know, a lot of different resources and from year to year, those resources may change in when they're offered or how they're offered. Right. As we continue to offer a lot of services virtually, you know, that's going to have an impact.

But, you know, we do continue to offer tutoring throughout the summer. It is a little bit more limited than what it is during a regular term, but tutoring is certainly available, you know, and I would encourage students to continue to use some of those resources or some of those strategies. Throughout summer term or throughout Maymester that they would typically use during regular terms as well.

Like working with your advisor, keeping that open communication with your instructor, even if it's a virtual course or taught online. You know, keeping that open communication with the instructor, letting them know how things are going, where you're struggling. Instructors, professors, faculty members are really going to be in a great position to provide to students, suggestions of resources or suggestions of what to focus on to perform better in the course.

And so I know our instructors are here. They want to. I see our students successful. So students find themselves, you know, struggling, struggling with some materials or struggling with some topics. I would certainly encourage them to keep that open communication with their instructors for those courses, because they're going to be able to help them and really look at where students are at that point in time and where they might be able to focus some of their attention.

Yeah, communication is the key. I feel like this has been a theme Freddy from, from, you know, the program side all the way through advising and student financial services. It's really, I might do a whole like podcast theme on it. Next.

It has never been. More important than us navigating, you know, this virtual environment and keeping that open communication through multiple avenues, right through virtual meetings, through email, through phone, it's never been more important to keep that going. You were so right. And it really, it helps to build just a sense of community too, when we all feel a little bit disconnected, right.

Especially through something like this pandemic. So, so I love the communication that maybe it'll be our next podcast, who knows. But so moving on from that cause I could talk about that all day. Advisors. So can you tell me a little bit about like when advisors are typically available through the summer, do they have, you know, the same hours through may master in summer?

What does that look like? Sure. So it really depends on who that advisor is. Right? Is it a, is it a primary role advisor or is it a faculty advisor for anyone who has a primary role advisor? Again, they're, they're likely 12 month employees. So they are working normal university operating hours, which typically are going to be that eight, 15 to four 45.

For, for some faculty advisors, they may not be on contract during the summer. So it may be a little bit more limited in that communication, but there's always someone that a student can go to. Even if, you know, an advisor might be out on vacation or an advisor might be out for various reasons. But again, if it is a primary role advisor, they're likely a 12 month employee available during Maymester available during summer.

Eight 15 to four 45. There are a lot of different programs that go on during the summer that current students, you know, don't really think about, especially when we are considering new student orientation and what a massive undertaking that is. So your advisor may have different availability during those.

Times and, and months and things like that, but they are certainly going to be accessible and available, reaching out to them via email is probably the best way to get a hold of them. Whether you're wanting to set up a, an appointment or to talk with them on the phone or a virtual meeting. Me reaching out to them by email is probably going to be the best in order to establish that communication.

But then most people are going to be happy to, to talk with students through, through a conversation rather than back and forth with email. That's also good advice. I was just going to ask you, how, how would you recommend our students reach out or what's the best practice for reaching out? So email I agree is fantastic.

They might not be at their desk right. All the time. So but they will get the email when they get back. So email your advisors, folks. That's right. And many of them, if they're going to be out of the office for an extended period of time, they'll put an away message up and they will provide an alternate.

The method of contact, whether they have a, you know, kind of a central desk or a central number that they use, or maybe one of their colleagues is jumping in and helping them out during their time out of the office that, you know, automatic response could also help direct to somebody else who might be able to help as well.

So advise the advising community is, is a very tight community, you know, at WVU. So. If you, you know, are trying to reach out to somebody and, and you aren't able to establish that contact, you know, continue to, to try those efforts and somebody will get you in contact with someone. Right. That's awesome.

Thank you for that advice as well. So, you know, student planning their schedule at the university, you know, looking at summer what are some of the best practices that you would recommend for students who are looking to plan a Maymester or summer term course or schedule? I think one of the things too for students to consider is because.

The summer term has multiple parts of term. And when I say that, it means, I mean, that courses can't be 12 weeks long. They can be six weeks long. They could be three weeks long and all varying times of the summer, when courses can begin or end working with your advisor to see when the courses are actually taking place.

Can be really, really helpful so that you're not building up one particular time during the summer. That is really going to be a very difficult, you know, period of time to do courses. And as an example in this you know I was working with a student not too long ago who wanted to take four courses or 12 credit hours in the summer.

And they had very specific courses that they wanted to take. And three of them were only offered during one point in time in the summer. So there were two courses that were offered during the first six weeks of summer. And one course that was offered during the second six weeks of summer, which that in and of itself is not bad.

And in that fourth class, the student had the option to take it either during the full summer term, 12 weeks, or they have the option to take it in the second six weeks of summer. And when we were looking at that, the student decided to take it in the second six weeks of summer, which gave them essentially.

Two courses during a six week period. And then in the second half of summer, it switched over to a different two courses during that six week period. So when looking at summer, it really is going to be helpful to work with your advisor to consider when these courses are running to make sure that you're not overloading yourself with too many hours in one part of summer, summer courses are already accelerated.

So there. You know, 16 week courses in a regular term that are condensed down into either 12 or six or three. And so we really want to make sure that you're going to be successful in setting yourself up for success, but also setting yourself up so that you're not going to hit that burnout early in the summer, or at any point in time during the summer.

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head with that one. Freddy, even I like working in the, in the summer office, you know planning out the schedule and looking at courses and whatnot. We'll, I'll have student call in asking for courses and I'm sure you've done this to Freddy where it's like, I have to look at the schedule and I'm planning it out.

And then I'm like, Okay, wait a minute. That class ever lasted that one. And I didn't see it at first. Right. You know, just trying to make sure that all those little nuances line up. Right. So that we're not so true overloading it's like, sometimes it makes your eyes go crazy. So it's always best to talk to the professionals, right?

Yeah. You're absolutely right. Amber and I like to look at it as a puzzle. Right. There's probably a possibility, but we need to make sure all the pieces are fitting. Right, right. Make sure it all matches up and all the stars align and we get, you know, everything the way that it needs to be for the student.

And definitely the advisors are the professionals. They know how it works. So they are the best, the best people to go to. So. So if a student doesn't know who their advisor is, and I feel like I get this question occasionally a lot of times it's with newer students who are coming into the university, maybe they just got admitted.

You know, and they're kind of waiting to be assigned, but if, if a student doesn't know who their advisor is or how to contact them, how can they go about finding out that information? That's a great question because we also get that a lot, even from students, you know, I need to meet with my advisor, but I don't know who they are.

So there are a few different ways a student can figure out either who their assigned advisor is or how to get an assigned advisor for the most part. The college or school or unit is going to assign those advisors at a certain point in time. Maybe it's once students are admitted, maybe it is after new student orientation or at a particular time in the semester.

But every student every degree seeking student has access to a system called degree works and degree works. Is that. Academic auditing tool that the university uses to show a student what they need to take and, and what they have completed and what they still need to complete in order to, to earn their degree.

And in that system there is a spot to show a student who their assigned academic advisor is. And the really nice thing about that is that advisor's name listed in degree works is a hyperlink. And so if a student clicks that advisor's name, it's automatically going to open up the student's defaulted email preference on their computer.

And it's going to bring up the ability for the student to write an email to their advisor. And that's a really, really easy and convenient way for students to, to find that who that advisor is. Degree works is accessible through a student's portal account. So when a student logs into the portal, one of the very top buttons is his degree works.

Now, if students don't have an advisor assigned in there, or if they're, you know, if they've been trying to contact their advisor and they're just not getting a response from their advisor, What my recommendation would be is to have the student contact their college or school undergraduate office who would be able to help them either identify who their advisor is to assign them an advisor, or to give them a point of contact, somebody who can help them.

So contacting that undergraduate office. You know, for, for their college or school is really going to help them get in contact with somebody who will be able to answer their questions, to be able to support them. And so that would be my recommendation, whether you're emailing a, you know, the, the undergraduate office calling them.

Because most of us are still staffing phone lines and our offices are open and functioning, you know, contacting the undergraduate office. If you don't see an advisor listed there, or if you've been trying to get in contact with your advisor, but you're just not getting an answer. That's a good way to kind of go to the next level and try to get the assistance.

Yeah, that's great advice. So you can find the undergraduate office information on all of the colleges throughout the universities websites. So if you guys are looking for information, you could always navigate to your specific colleges website within the university, and we should be able to find the contact information there that we can reach out to them as well.

That's right. And when, in doubt, and I tell my students this all the time, Amber, when in doubt, just, you know, do a search on the internet of WVU and whatever you're looking for most, every time it is successful. So we have a great online presence and the ability to do those, those internet searches is really, really good and functions well.

Yeah. I even use them myself ready. There'll be times where I'm like, Oh, I need to find this information. Let me go to Google and do a quick search and you can find you are absolutely right. Just about anything you need to. So, so yeah, don't be afraid to get out there and search for college if you need additional information.

And like I said, that undergraduate office email, I'm sure they have a phone number listed on there as well. So you guys can always contact your academic Combs. Well, Freddy it's, it's almost the end of the show, but I love when our guests give pieces of advice to our students. So I'm going to ask you the, the golden question or my most exciting question that I asked.

So one piece of advice that you would like to offer students about may master in summer term, what, what's your one piece of advice? I feel that this is a really a loaded question and say, you know, work with your advisor, which that is absolutely true, you know, that if your advisor is there to help and support you.

So if you do find yourself needing assistance or you have questions, or you're not sure where to go work with them, reach out to them. But you know, one thing that I would say that's not necessarily advising related and that we kind of talked about earlier on Amber is. Keep that communication going, right?

Not only with your advisor, but with your instructors. If you have any graduate students who are, are helping with coursework, keeping communication open with them, just keeping communication open with your network at the university, your academic network at the university is really going to help out.

You know, I think oftentimes students think when, you know, summer comes that. Nobody's here. But that is simply not the case. You know, we're all working, we're all here to support our students. We want to see them be successful, but sometimes we don't know when students need help until they outreach to us.

So reach out to us, let us know. The, the academic community really wants to see our students be successful and, and utilize that right. Keep that communication going. Reach out when you need help. Yes. 100%. I am so passionate about the communication piece. Communication is key guys. It's key. And not just with faculty, that's been, you know, we've been, we've been talking to a lot of the colleges and of course they're saying communicate with the faculty members, obviously that is super important, but advising is so important too.

I mean, it's really mapping out, you know, your whole degree path, right. And, and how you're going to get through it and what classes you're going to take. And. They know best. So communicate with them. They are here to help you. All of them are great at what they do. They love their job. They're passionate about student success and that's, that's awesome that we have, you know, so many great people here to support and assist our students.

Yeah. And I really funny, I really appreciate you joining us today and offering your advice and giving us all the, the lowdown on the advising for CLASS and all the information that you provided. So I really, really, really appreciate it. Thank you so much. Yeah. Thanks so much, Amber. I was really excited to come on and talk about this.

And when you had reached out to me, I was like, Oh my goodness. This is a great opportunity and what a cool project that's going on. So I again say thank you to you for letting me come on share information and, and hopefully, you know, this will be beneficial that students you'll find this helpful learn something new and again, reach out to that advisor.

Keep that communication going. They're happy to help you out. I promise. Yeah. Awesome.

Thank you so much. And we will be back next week with another episode of the Online Road Map. And until then, guys, we will see you soon.

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