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Academic advising among topics of discussion at day two of academic reorganization feedback sessions

Katrina Piatek_Jimenez, Professor in Mathematics, expresses her concerns during the AOR meeting, February 8, 2018, in the Bovee University Center, Terrace Rm. A.

Day two of feedback sessions for the preliminary Academic Organizational Review recommendations included discussion about how the overall review process is being handled and academic advising.

Carol Cartwright, former president of Kent State University and Bowling Green State University, facilitated three more feedback sessions Feb. 8 in Terrace Room A in the Bovee University Center. 

Preliminary recommendations were released on the AOR website Jan. 29. The initial recommendations by the AOR committees call for students to meet with their academic advisors on a more consistent basis.

Teri Spooner, administrative assistant to President George Ross and coordinator in the President’s Office, appreciated discussing the reports before they are really cemented. She also said advising is a concern that worries her.

“You can’t get to that endpoint (audit) and find out that you are missing classes you don’t need,” Spooner said. “Students are getting bad advising. We are not coordinated, we’re not on the same page. Students are getting conflicting information from different advisers. Who trumps then? We shouldn’t have to find creative ways to get students graduated.”

Evan Montague, director of Student Success, said advising does not come down to just choosing classes. 

“Advising is seen as a barrier for students,” he said. “Scheduling is difficult and it’s different in every college.”

Montague said the review is a great opportunity to improve student success.

Michelle Kalisek, secretary with the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts, and Erin Smith-Gaken, associate director of Student Success, expressed how students often feel confused on who to go to for advising. They believed that unifying the advising unit would help add cohesiveness and provide better direction for students.

Kirsten Nicholson, a faculty member in the biology department, said people have distrust with the AOR process — mostly because it’s rushed.

“Because there’s a history of distrust, it’s hard to embrace this fully,” Nicholson said. “There are a number of staff that won’t take part in the process because of that distrust.”

Royal Oak senior Winnifred Walsh was the sole representative of the student body at the day’s first session. She said she planned on attending the student opinion session scheduled for Feb. 7 until it was cancelled due to lack of registration.

Walsh said the student body feels blindsided by this reorganization process and only knew about the committees because the Student Government Association presented them to its members. 

Cartwright pointed out there are students on the committees.

"There was one student on committee one and one student on committee two, and I'm pretty sure there are more than two students at this university,” Walsh responded.

Raymond Francis, faculty member in the Department of Teacher Education and Professional Development, expressed his dismay with the handling of the reorganization. 

"I'm just amazed it takes less time to reorganize an entire institution than it takes me to get one curricular item processed," he said.

Anthony Chappaz, a faculty member in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, cut in after Francis, adding, "Or technology purchased." 

Cartwright said there a general distrust in the financial responsibility of the initiative. 

"That's clearly something that has come up repeatedly," she said. "It is my sense when (the institution) makes a statement there's essentially a budget neutral component here that it's going to be able to demonstrate that." 

A tracking chart was suggested as a mechanism for both the institution and faculty and students as stakeholders to keep track of what the institution promises to add and subtract financially.

Chappaz said the reorganization of colleges and faculty "generates a lot of institutional confusion." Faculty in attendance nodded in approval.

Cathy Willermet, a professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, said she was “concerned about being asked to vote on things that I don’t know the details about.” She wanted to make “data-driven decisions” but felt that she could not at this point in the process. 

Specific issues that were brought forth included that lack of clarity on the teacher education proposal and the separation of the professional programs for nontraditional students. Katrina Piatek-Jimenez, a professor in the Department of Mathematics, said the recommendations for teacher education are unclear.

Al Zainea, director of Academic and Professional Programs, said that the professional programs for community development, administration and integrative leadership studies have a “synergy” about them.

He added these programs have about 1,700 non-traditional students enrolled and separating these programs from one another would disrupt the flow. 

Cartwright presented the feedback to the three committees for review.

"I'm here because I'm independent — I have no vestment in these proposals," Cartwright said of her position.