B&E advising unit tackles first flood of four-year students
The College of Business and Economics is getting ready for a big shift this fall. It will change from a two-year college for juniors and seniors to a full four-year experience for freshmen through seniors.
The shift will affect every department and unit, and has already had a colossal impact on one in particular, the Office of Undergraduate Programs and Advising (OUPA).
Previously the department had helped juniors settle into to the disciplines of accounting, management, economics, management information systems, finance and marketing. But these students were already somewhat accustomed to college life. Now the OUPA staff of seven is working with approximately 400 new students entering the college, and college life, for the first time, and their parents, too.
"This improvement assimilates students into the culture of the College at the beginning of their academic careers," said Susan Gustin, director of the freshman experience. "It has been a major undertaking, and I give credit to the staff here who have made our first freshman New Student Orientation successful."
During the month of June 2011, New Student Orientation's daily sessions served as the launching pad for freshman and transfer students entering the College. New Student Orientation services a variety of students and their needs with special sessions designed for veterans, transferring students and students who are the first in their families to attend college. In April student who live in the Morgantown area were on campus for Orientation.
Parents and students attend presentations that introduce them to College programs, opportunities and requirements. During orientation students meet with their academic advisors and schedule classes for the upcoming fall semester. "This is the beginning of a long-term relationship with a professional academic advising staff dedicated to supporting student success at WVU," Gustin said.
OUPA had a preview of this new regimen when the 21st Century Scholar program began. The program admitted a limited number of academically advanced freshmen into the College beginning in 2008. But that program was limited to approximately 60 students. Working with more than 400 is quite a different matter. "That program has served as the 'micro' freshman class that we used to build a freshmen experience program. We have had four academic years to develop, implement, assess, and revise a freshmen program that serves a small percentage of the undergraduate population. Although our 21st Century Business Scholars program services a specialized population of students, the model helped us tremendously."
Gustin said that overall, the first year Orientation for the four-year College has been a success. "We expected some growing pains," Gustin said, "But for our first year, I'd have to say things have gone very well." She said parents appreciate a "snapshot" of college life PowerPoint presentation she and Catherine Thieme give.
"We help parents see all the opportunities that their students have arrayed before them," Thieme said. "We cover everything from study-abroad courses, to the technology help for students, to the customized Adventure West Virginia outings for B&E students.
The OUPA unit was beefed up with two new staff, Gustin and Susan Maczko, who said she is enjoying working with the students.
"I like advising students, which also often includes speaking with their parents and easing their concerns. I try to be meticulous about checking college entrance exams, transfer credits, advanced placement and math placement results because these determine the student's placement within the College and University as well as the total number of course credit hours the student has earned prior to enrolling full time at WVU."
Moreover, the curriculum was altered with the addition of two new courses. One focus on time-management, research, problems to avoid, study habits, and an introduction to the College's focus areas, which is intended to help students see the educational opportunities within the College. The other course focuses on business communication skills.
The OUPA staff is fundamental to the academic achievement of students. From recruitment, to orientation, to continued advising and preparation for graduation and careers, OUPA staff play a crucial role, Gustin said.
"We are involved in lots and lots of preparation that goes on before a student even sees a professor in the classroom," she said. "We tell parents that their students always have someone to turn to. If we can't help them, we can point them to someone who can. Personally, I like working with these students. I have kids all over the world who still keep in touch with me."