“What do you do exactly?” The dreaded question. You get it from your family, your partner, your colleagues, even other Academic Advisors. Fair enough. The position “Academic Coordinator” is, in fact, quite vague. I am an Academic Coordinator in the Carson College of Business at Washington State University Vancouver. About 40% of my position is academic advising. The rest, well, we’ll get into that. WSU Vancouver is a branch or “urban” campus. Our main campus is in Pullman and usually feels a world away. The student population at WSU Vancouver is anything but traditional.
I advise students in all of the majors within the Carson College of Business whose last names are A-M. My case load is about two hundred forty students (which is a relief, seeing my previous caseload was over a thousand!). WSU has mandatory advising which means that each October and March my calendar gets pretty full with advising appointments. I encourage students to come to appointments prepared, so that we can discuss how the semester is going, what they are doing to move forward career-wise, or how their kids are doing. I also have an influx of appointments around mid-term grades and after final grades post with students regarding reinstatement. Quite different than other institutions I’ve worked at, the decision for reinstatement is in my hands, rather than with a institution-wide committee.
The rest of my year is filled with projects and more projects. Two that I am particularly proud of are the Blackboard Advising course and the Welcome Event for newly certified students we are planning for August. These projects truly lend themselves to helping students feel a sense of belonging to both the Carson College of Business and to WSU Vancouver. I am also on the Student Quality Committee, where last semester we implemented a standard writing and presentation rubric for all Business faculty to use in their classes. This both helps students know what to expect in their courses, as well as helps them become stronger writers and presenters. The fact that our committee has that level of impact is pretty astonishing.
Additionally, in my position I am the social media manager and blog editor, team consultant for client based projects, and I facilitate a number of workshops and focus groups throughout the year. I am also currently the chair of a search committee within our College and I supervise one student employee. I am also creating a course for Business students on soft-skills and success in the workplace.
As you can probably expect, I’m also committed to service and sit on a number of committees and task forces. I sit on the WSU Vancouver Strategic Planning Task Force (starting in August) and the Enrollment Management Task Force (subcommittee: First and Second Year Experience). As I mentioned, I’m also a member of the Student Quality Committee and the Scholarship Committee within the Carson College of Business. Campus-wide, I sit on the Vancouver Advising Committee (subcommittees: Professional Development and Web/Communications). I’m very lucky that WSU values professional development and so I am able to take advantage of webinars, chats, and conferences.
Typical days actually do exist for me. It has taken a long time, but I’ve managed to get to a space in my life where I have some type of a routine. Some things that are given: each day I allot time on my calendar for “productivity” (aka admin time) where I clean off my desk, sort through emails that are just sitting there, and so on. I set a limit of 8 student appointments per day (any more and I am pretty wiped out). I use an online scheduler which helps me not have to spend a lot of time playing phone/email tag. I typically do not have any student appointments on Tuesdays as I have several standing meetings on that day.
In the summer, I work four tens and have Fridays off. I get to work around 7:45 AM, leave around 6:30 PM. During the fall and spring, I work late on Mondays, and a typical 8-5 the rest of the week.. By the time I arrive at work, I’ll have already scanned my email from my phone so that nothing takes me by surprise when I get to work. I spend the first hour or so planning out the week (any major projects, things not to forget, etc). Then, I prioritize my work based on deadlines and so on. Luckily (I know this because it has not always been the case), I rarely get too many interruptions. I consider this a blessing. I spend a lot of time responding to email (big shocker) and updating student records. This I really don’t mind because I want students to be informed and I want to know I did my part in that process.
My days are typically filled with making progress on projects, sorting out ideas for new ones, and advising appointments. I’m grateful my Director has a lot of trust in me and lets me run with my ideas. My office is currently located in the Carson College of Business suite but will be moving to the Carson Center for Student Success in August. One thing about my position and my office location is my constant contact with faculty. We laugh, we plan, we strategize. They are truly there for student success which is pretty amazing. They also bring snacks; another perk. As far as advising goes, I never know what an advising appointment will really bring me. If it is a new student, we will go over my advising syllabus, think out a schedule, and then just talk about them. Who they are, what they want to become, challenges they’ve overcome, and other obligations. Typically, I have a few students that check in with me every few weeks to say hi, update me on internships or jobs, or new places to check out in Vancouver. More often than not, I have an open door, and there is usually laughter. Lots of it.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, when I’m asked what I do, I say something along the lines of “whatever is needed to help make a student succeed and feel good about themselves, and everything in between”.
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!