Avoiding Advising Woes at SSU

By: Elizabeth Camillieri
 Salem, Mass., March 27, 2017 — A transfer student enters her advising appointment thinking she is going to be planning her schedule for her first semester of her Senior year, only to find out that she had been misled along the way, and that graduation is not as close as she had once thought.

For Jenna Carillo, a Junior at Salem State, this was her reality. Having thought that she was on track to graduate and stick to the four-year plan, her first advising appointment was a disappointment.

“My advising experience… was a bit rocky and confusing”, said Carillo. Had she not found guidance from the students in the Peer Mentor Office, located in Bertolon on Central Campus, she would have been stuck another year.

The Peer Mentor Office, staffed by business students, is one option on campus that students have when it comes to getting academic guidance. The office’s goal is to provide students with one-on-one attention when it comes to planning schedules ranging from one semester to the rest of one’s college career, said peer mentor Paige Harris.

Paige Harris, junior and peer mentor at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., trains a volunteer mentor while helping build a schedule for a fellow business student on March 22, 2017. Photo: Elizabeth Camillieri

The students in the office have the full range of mental and physical health training and are dedicated to being there for students beyond simple scheduling matters.

“I would like students to know that we are here to help with more than just class recommendations. We are here for problems with professors, classes and life. We pull from personal experiences and are willing to help you through your troubles,” said Harris.

Professor Hanlong Fu, an advisor at Salem State, suggests that getting to know students on a more personal level would help facilitate a better advising experience.

“They need more than an advisor. They need more than for someone to just tell them to take these courses,” said Fu. “Getting a student to open up is the challenging part. It’s hard to connect with them unless we meet beyond the 30-minute advising session every semester.”

Junior Adam Shahin rarely consults his advisor outside of advising season. Taking a more laid-back approach, he usually meets with his advisor after registration has opened, leaving him with fewer choices and a less desirable schedule.

Junior Adam Shahin of Salem State University in Salem, Mass., signs into his Navigator account on March 23, 2017, in order to start looking for courses to add into his cart for the fall 2017 semester. Photo: Elizabeth Camillieri

But what if students were required or more highly encouraged to visit with their advisors on a more personal level?

“They need someone to give them life advice and get to know them. If you don’t know the student personally it can be hard to give them advice that is tailored to them,” said Fu. “I want to be more like a guidance counselor, and give them life advice as opposed to just picking courses so they can graduate.”

When it comes to advising season and all the stress and uncertainty that follows, Carillo suggested scheduling multiple appointments.

“Plan to go at least twice” she said referring to the Peer Mentor Office, “go before your advising appointment and then after as well. I was in a much better and realistic place the second visit”, said Carillo.

Students may also seek advice from the peer mentors run out of the Center for Academic Excellence located on the first floor of the Berry Library on North Campus.

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