New campus advising center expands student services, options
By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor 217-244-1072; email@example.com
Advising students Julian Parrott, assistant provost and director of new student advising, is director of the Division of General Studies, a unit in the Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services. The center has been repositioned as a campus-level unit and has moved to larger offices to better assist undergraduate students who need help exploring their options before deciding on majors.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
The General Curriculum Center, an award-winning advising center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is being expanded and repositioned as a campus-level unit to better meet the needs of undergraduate students across campus.
Since the late 1960s, the center’s mission has been to help students who may be undecided about their academic objectives, who are in transition between colleges or majors, or who just want to explore some of the nearly 200 majors and 100 minors available at Illinois make informed decisions so they can progress toward graduation in a timely manner.
Now known as the Division of General Studies, the unit has relocated from a house on Fifth Street to the Illini Union Bookstore Building at 807 S. Wright St. The division is a unit in the Campus Center for Advising and Academic Services, reporting directly to the Office of the Provost. Julian Parrott, assistant provost and director of new student advising, is its director.
Although the general curriculum was in LAS, about two-thirds of the incoming freshmen that elected it were really interested in academic programs in other colleges, Parrott said.
“We have always served a campuswide population,” Parrott said. “We think that being more centrally positioned will give these students more options.”
Beginning with the fall 2008 semester, the Division of General Studies will begin directly admitting and enrolling students who elect to start their academic careers as “undeclared.”
Based upon the center’s past enrollment trends, its 12 academic advisers expect to serve about 3,500 to 3,600 – approximately 12 percent – of the undergraduate students who have registered for fall 2007 classes. About half of those students will be continuing students from the spring semester, with the other half “undeclared” freshmen who have selected the curriculum explicitly or who have accepted it as their second choice when their preferred major – usually engineering or business – couldn’t accommodate them. Another 250 students probably will transfer into the general curriculum from another LAS curriculum or another college.
With the additional office space in its new location, and the greater resources available under the purview of Provost Linda Katehi, the center now is able to expand its staffing, programming and services.
Two assistant directors are being added to the center’s staff and will be responsible for coordinating admissions, honors programs and academic assistance. Graduate counselors from the Office of Minority Student Affairs will be relocating to the office, too, so they will be more closely linked to the center’s academic advisers and programming. “That’s one of the strengths of our advising program, and it will really be enhanced when the OMSA counselors are just doors away from the academic advisers. I think that will make a big impact immediately,” Parrott said.
Over the next few years, some of the academic advisers will begin overseeing academic probation programs, expand satellite advising services in the residence halls and offer them in the cultural houses, and enhance services aimed at promoting students’ academic success. The center also hopes to begin offering scholarships.
“Sometimes students and other people think that not having a major and being ‘undeclared’ is pejorative, but these are not second-rate students,” Parrott said, and added that, historically, about 10 - 15 percent of the incoming freshmen in the general curriculum have been honor students.
The Division of General Studies is designed to be flexible enough that students can explore a variety of majors and fields of study while taking courses that fulfill the general education requirements for almost any major on campus. Students may remain undeclared until they have completed 56 academic hours, at which time they must transfer to another curriculum or college.
“The advising we do is very developmental,” said Chris Armstrong, an adviser in the center for more than three years. “We legitimize the idea that it’s okay to explore, and that students can create skills that are highly sought after by employers and can be used anywhere while they stay on track for graduation.”
Over the past five years, the center’s staff members and programs have won six national honors, including the 2006 Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award from the National Academic Advising Association, in recognition of the exceptional advisory services the center provides through its satellite locations in the Undergraduate Library and in residence halls. Adviser Adva Steiner was recently selected an “Outstanding New Advisor” for 2007 by the National Academic Advisors Association.
“The signal strength of our program is that the students know their advisers before they ever set foot on campus,” Parrott said. “We contact our freshmen before orientation.”
The center will host a grand opening celebration early in the fall semester.
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