My name is Sarah (Craddock) Maddox. I am an Academic Support Coordinator in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. My primary job is academic advising for undergraduate students in the Biomedical Sciences major (biomedical sciences is applying biological science concepts specifically to human and animal health and disease), so I spent the vast majority of my time doing this, either through individual meetings with students or through things like Ram Orientation for incoming new and transfer students. I also advise the Biomedical Student Association, a group of students (primarily undergraduate, though graduate students are certainly welcome to be involved) interested in biomedical sciences.
Generally, advising often works in “peak advising” and “non-peak advising” timelines. Every student majoring in Biomedical Sciences must meet with their academic advisor once a semester to get an advising code that allows them to register. So, during October/November and March/April, my days are almost entirely taken up by student appointments and the various paperwork that comes with those (doing course overrides, helping with scheduling concerns, taking advising notes, etc.). In June/July, I am an orientation academic advisor, and assist transfer students in Biomedical Sciences in choosing their fall schedule. I also serve as a college orientation academic advisor over the summer, where we help incoming students with any major within our college (Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience, Microbiology, and Environmental Health) to determine a class schedule for the fall semester.
During quite a bit of the other time, I am either compiling data on a variety of things (my latest project was looking at grades students get in one physiology course, and then the grades that they get if they have to take the second similar physiology course for pre-health profession prerequisites), or working on student outreaches. For example, we do precipitous grade outreach after each semester, looking at students who have had a semester GPA drop more than 1.3 from the previous semester – to see if there was a significant issue that happened, and how we can assist the student. These students are not usually caught in academic probation checks, but the downward trend is certainly problematic and we want to understand what is going on. Near December and May, I spend quite a bit of time preparing for commencement. As one of the smallest colleges, we are lucky to be able to spend about a minute talking about each graduate as they cross the stage and shake hands. To do this, we collect a graduation survey and create grad cards for each student, including different things they have participated in, as well as future plans.
I randomly picked two days, one in peak-advising and one in non-peak advising:
I get into the office between 8-8:30am. I have the first hour of my day blocked off to eat breakfast (if I didn’t eat in the car), and respond to any immediate emails, as well as to get prepared for my morning.
I started meeting with students at 9am. I have the luxury of a small advising case load, so I only meet with about 150 students, and am able to schedule 30 minute appointments with 30 minutes in between for advising notes and to respond to emails that come up throughout the day. I met with students at 9am and 10am, but my 11am appointment did not show up. Generally, I don’t have a huge problem with no shows. Most students are respectful enough of my time to either show up or to cancel their appointment – but it does happen. These are a bit frustrating, because I do spend time planning and preparing for each appointment.
Luckily, I had planned a lunch with my then-fiancé (now husband) this day. He started attending school at the local community college and will transfer to my institution to complete his bachelor’s degree (as an aside: the amount I have learned about the transfer process to my institution working with him has absolutely blown my mind). It’s nice to be able to get away and see him when I have the chance. I do make lunch appointments in my calendar and rarely take them off of my calendar. The down time is critical for me to recharge and rejuvenate for my afternoon appointments. 2 days a week now, I go to a local gym and take part in a class just to keep me in shape, help me de-stress, and get away from the office.
Then, I go into my afternoon. I started meeting with students at 1:30pm, and met with two students this afternoon.
I try to have my last hour blocked to catch up on anything that happened throughout the day, and to start to get ready for the next day.
Just at the end of peak advising! This particular day, I also had my first hour blocked off. I had a student come in at 9am to talk about transferring courses from another institution over the summer, and how they might count toward the degree.
Then, my colleagues and I met with the department chair for a program update. We have a department chair that is very invested in the undergraduate program. I believe in this meeting we talked about prospective student numbers for fall semester, including our new major (Neuroscience). We also discussed a few things that have been going on in regards to philanthropy and our Biomedical Student Association.
Immediately after this meeting, I met with another student in the major about transferring summer courses back to CSU, then I had lunch. This day, I believe I just stayed in my office. When I’m in my office, I usually will browse over to hulu.com and catch up on something that my husband would complain if he had to watch 😀
This afternoon, I went to a campus meeting on Orientation, planning for advisor training. I am the college representative on this committee, and we were discussing changes to summer orientation for both transfer and new students, and how each college might incorporate these changes, as well as what training all advisors need to receive.
Then, to wrap this day up, I was in the middle of completing comprehensive exams for my doctorate. I work in a department that is very supportive of my next steps, so I spent an hour working on this document before heading home for the day.
I’ve worked professionally as an academic advisor at this institution since 2011. The first department I worked for was impressed by my work ethic and drive and moved me into a different position, working with graduate programs, after one year. I was thankful for this opportunity to grow and learn, but the new position was not a fit for me. I missed working with undergraduate students, and was lucky to find another opportunity on my campus to do so.
Another somewhat unexpected piece of my job is participation in commencement. In previous positions, we might have volunteered with commencement, but in my current role, I am a critical part of commencement. Additionally, our advisors wear full regalia at commencement ceremonies – it’s nice to get out the gown and hat, and rent my hood (I’ll buy my full garb when I complete the PhD)!
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!