An academic advisor is now one of the first faces new students see after enrolling and going through freshman orientation. With advisement changes, students can now meet immediately with advisors from their intended school or college. If the student hasn't yet chosen a major, he or she is assigned to University College.
The change, suggested by the First Year Steering Committee, is meant to make it as easy as possible for students to find an academic home and focus on a specific course of study. Associate Provost Greg Heileman hopes the improvements in advisement will allow students to graduate more quickly, without encountering bureaucratic obstacles such as not realizing the need to take a critical course at a specific time in the pursuit of a degree.
Connecting students with specific schools and colleges early is intended to lead to student success and improve graduation rates.
It is also a great change in University College. In the past, University College was the front door of the university where all students were placed until they declared a major and were accepted into a specific school or college. But sometimes students lost their bearing in the crowd and spent months taking courses they didn’t need for their eventual major.
University College is now the academic home for students who do not know what their intended major is and for students who plan to major in a career in the health care fields. Dean of University College Kate Krause said the recent changes in advisement allow University College advisors to spend more time with individual students. “It’s a calmer environment now and the advisors can spend more time to help students find their way,” she said.
As students decide which area of study most interests them, they are encouraged to work with advisors in that particular school or college. Heileman said, “We are trying to shift as much of the load as possible for freshman advising to the academic units.”
UNM offers more than 200 undergraduate degrees. Students who understand the academic path they would like to pursue can quickly begin to hone in on how to make that happen. A new online degree mapping system allows students to chart a course to the degree they want.”
In the past, students who planned to teach would take their core curriculum courses and prerequisites before moving into the College of Education. As a result, COE advisors wouldn’t see students until their junior year. Now students meet with COE advisors, even as freshmen.
“Initial feedback from students has been very positive, said Deborah Rifenbary, associate dean, College of Education. “We’ve seen comments such as ‘the advisors in the College of Education are knowledgeable and extremely helpful in creating a schedule tailored to each student’s interests,’ and ‘the faculty were very helpful and very eager to provide feedback’”.
Advisement in the School of Engineering has traditionally been more aggressive because advisors also do recruitment. Advisors in all six departments that comprise the School of Engineering work together to host open houses. They also attend career days to meet students with an interest in engineering. Steve Peralta, director, Engineering Student Services, said they recruit families, hosting them for campus tours of engineering labs. He added that they talk to parents as well as students.
The School of Engineering allows students who have completed Math 100 to enter the college. Once a student has declared a major in engineering, they receive close attention from the advisors in ESS. “We do midterm grade checks,” Peralta said. “If they are having trouble, we have our own tutoring program, led by engineering students. Our office funds tutors to help them through the math, science and many of the specific engineering courses.” If a student falters, they may be placed on an Academic Improvement Plan and tracked until their academic standing improves.
UNM continues efforts to make advisement easier for students, no matter where they are in their academic career. Heileman said the realignment of advisors within the university should make it easier, even for students who haven’t declared a major.
There are now two student success centers, one located in the University Advisement and Enrichment Center and another in Casas del Rio, the new student residential housing on campus. Students who prefer to get information online can visit students.unm.edu.