Adviser Valerie Bauer discusses with student Adam Grimsley in the nursing building. Photo by Ethan Arlien/The Dakota Student.
With the fall semester coming to an end, students turn to academic advisers to plan out the remainder of their collegiate careers.
While visiting an adviser may not be the most exciting part of students’ semesters, it’s a busy time for advisers, who provide guidance students need to explore academic options.
The goal of the process is similar for many advisers, but each adviser takes their own approach to the job.
Engineering Professor Joel Ness focuses on helping students discover possible careers and follows through by checking if the student is on track and meeting the university’s Essential Studies requirements.
Nursing adviser Valerie Bauer covers an extensive amount of information with her students.
“We’ll chat about class registrations, essential studies, the campus connection, requirements for the nursing program, resources on campus (and) studying strategies,” she said.
Communications adviser David Kiefel doesn’t just put out options for students. Instead, he helps build a custom schedule that will put students on a path to success. In an initial meeting, Kiefel focuses on his students strengths, weaknesses and interests.
“I find out where I feel the success may be … then I determine certain courses, especially for freshmen and sophomores,” he said.
Becoming an adviser
Bauer began as a recruiter in enrollment services, but she wanted to spend more time with students.
“With recruitment, you see them up until you get them all admitted to UND, and you don’t see them again,” she said. “I wanted something that was more of a relationship.”
Ness, who is also works in the Office of Student Experience and Outreach, said becoming an adviser was a responsibility that came with his job. He works with undeclared and pre-engineering students, helping them find their way through the Engineering program.
Kiefel became an adviser to make personal connections.
“I thought it’d be nice to finish off my career at the university where I started in 1966 and give back to the university in areas I felt I could assist students with,” he said.
While Ness advises about 30 students, Bauer and Kiefel see more than 300 each.
“It’s impossible to know all 379 students completely well, but I think that the half hour, or however long our meeting is, is dedicated to the two of us,” Bauer said. “I look at that as our time together.”
Kiefel individualizes each student as best he can.
“I want to be that person they can confide in and feel comfortable with and to know that I really do care,” he said.
Advisers notice that many students tend to ask the same questions. For Dr. Ness, the most commonly asked questions are “My class is full, what do I take?” and “I’m not doing well in this class, what do I do next semester?” to which he responds, “Next semester you need to adjust your priorities and retake that class. Work yourself out and find out what you’re serious about.”
Both Keifel and Bauer’s students ask general questions about the future such as “What should I take next semester?” or “Am I going to graduate on time?”
Making the most
In order for the advising appointment to be beneficial, all three advisers suggest students take some initiative ahead of time.
“Do your homework. Look up classes you’re interested in, see where they fit, do a draft of what your interest areas are for that next semester,” Keifel said. “See what is needed, required, so when I see you first of all, time spent won’t be so tedious, because a lot of the answer will be already there, and we have more time to discuss more relevant things.”
Bauer encourages students to be familiar with the program, graduation requirements, what they have done and where they plan to go.
“Don’t just come in saying ‘Tell me what to do’ because that’s not going to happen during our meeting,” she said. “It’s more of a planning strategy ‘What do you want to do?’ type of conversation, so be familiar with policies.”
Ness said the most important thing is to form a relationship with advisers early on in college.
“Don’t be a stranger to your adviser. Stop by early in the semester and introduce yourself,” Ness said. “Let your adviser know what your interests are, and they can help plan out what you want to do in preparation for your degree program.”
While some students communicate frequently with their advisers, some wait till the last minute until they must meet with them.
“In the College of Engineering, every student has to meet with their adviser in order to register for their classes,” Ness said. “Once that happens, an adviser hold will be removed.”
While the enrollment process and the academic season can be navigated without an adviser, Bauer says it’s a tool students should utilize.
“Students have the capability to figure things out on their own, but it can be a much better experience with an adviser,” she said. “There’s something to be gained from extra guidance. If it can be a better experience, then it should be.”
Kiefel said he especially appreciates advisers a because he did not have advising resources when he attended UND.
“As a student here in the 60’s, I would have really liked to have somebody that was there at the time,” he said. “It wasn’t quite set up the same way.”
Paula Kaledzi is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]