Hello, everyone. My name is Monica Marcelis Fochtman. That’s a mouthful! I always tell my students to call me Monica, Dr. Monica, or Dr. Fochtman- whatever works for you. I currently serve as an academic advisor in the College of Nursing at Michigan State University. Go Green! In my role, I recruit and advise three different populations of students: high-achieving high school students applying for our direct-admit undergraduate program (Nurse Scholars); adult learners pursuing nursing as a second degree (Accelerated); and professional nurses interested in becoming nurse scientists (PhD). A major project that I worked on this year was instituting a second, earlier deadline for the Nurse Scholar program. This resulted in a 100% increase in applications received.
An average day involves a lot of follow-up. I try to only check email three times a day: first thing in the morning, after lunch, and about 30 minutes before I leave for home. Most of the messages I receive are inquiries about the admission requirements for one of our programs. After email, it is on to phone messages. After those are done, I try to work on projects. Usually these projects have multiple parts, or involve other people in our office. I try to work on my pieces and then send out what I worked on to other team members. For example, every June our staff reviews our website. We check each program for accuracy, remove outdated information, and write and publish new content.
Because of the programs I advise, I actually have two busy periods. Nurse Scholar and Accelerated program applications are both due December 1st. These are paper applications that get submitted, so they require manual processing. Having these two programs due at the same time is challenging and it can be hard to have my peak times at the end of the semester when I am already tired. I learned my lesson last year! I got better this year and taking breaks during October and November so I started December ready to go. I also feel compelled to share that most, if not all, of my day-to-day work is Sensing- or S- on the MBTI. I have a preference for N- intuition. Doing work outside my natural preference is challenging. To recharge, I engage in creative activities like writing or coloring.
Processing applications for the Accelerated program is tedious and not glamorous at all. But, it is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously because the faculty reviewing them counts on me to make sure that they are accurate. Verifying application eligibility and prerequisite course acceptance involves looking at each application (160+) and each course listed on the application (10). Today’s students have often attended more than one institution, so I sometimes evaluate five to six transcripts per applicant. By the end of the day, my eyes are crossed! After applications are verified, they go to faculty committee for admissions decisions. I am also responsible for notifying all the applicants of their admissions status. I process all the decisions and then mail out the letters. Part of this involves speaking with students who were not admitted. Honestly, this is one of unexpected things that happened to me as part of this job. I did not realize how competitive our programs are and how devastated students are when not admitted. It is challenging to mend some broken hearts over the phone.
My second busy period occurs at the end of the academic year in early May. This is the final application deadline for the doctoral program and graduation time for undergraduates. I love certifying degrees- making sure that students have met all of the degree requirement- but, this is time intensive work that requires concentration and focus. I am happy to help students, especially my beloved Spartans, but it’s tiring. Again, recharging is so important!
An unexpected thing that has happened as a result of my current position is that I get to read our undergraduate students’ names at graduation. Three times a year, we have a college-level ceremony. Nurses love ritual and I do, too! Reading students’ names can be intimidating sometimes. It is their moment to shine and have their family and friends take 100s of photos. I do my best to get it right! I usually get over my nerves and have a great time. I am honored to be part of it. And, I get to where my doctoral robes- which I am not going to lie-never gets old!
Academic advising in a pre-professional, pre-licensure college is an interesting middle place. Colleagues from other more traditional student affairs functional areas see us as academic affairs. But the academic leaders of our college see our office as student services. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just an experience that I was a little unprepared for when I began here almost four years ago.
This post is part of our #dayinSA series on highlighting the diversity of functional areas in the field of student affairs. We will hear from #SApros of all kinds – academic advisors, office mangagers, res hall directors, vice provosts of SA, and many many more. Each will share exactly what their typical day looks like, what exactly they work on, and what makes them want to come to work each day. We hope to squash stereotypes within the field and celebrate all the different kinds of great work that #SApros do. For more information, check out the intro post by Sara Ackerson. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!