By Madison Bara, Section Editor
Academic Advising made changes to the way they operate this semester to continue helping students plan their schedules online amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
John Kruszewski, director of the academic advising department, said the department has always been used to foot and web traffic, but due to working remotely, they had to adjust to the traffic being exclusively online.
“Due to the excellent work of my colleagues we were able to transition to being [exclusively] online quickly and adapt to the extra students who are using academic advising online,” said Kruszewski.
Kruszewski said one of the ways students can have an academic advisor help them with their schedule is by filling out a questionnaire that highlights the students’ time and class preferences, so an advisor can custom build their schedule.
“For example, if a student says Mondays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. are free, we take that information and put it into their schedule for them,” said Kruszewski.
Isha Asad, a student at MCC, said she recently used academic advising and found that the process was easy, and the advisor was able to help her schedule her fall classes flawlessly.
“I scheduled a Zoom meeting and at first I was nervous because I am so used to talking face to face with an advisor. They really try to make you feel comfortable with the situation and do everything they can to [provide] you with the information you need,” said Asad.
“Students who have questions about what they need to graduate or what they should study next can schedule a meeting through Zoom. We’ve had a good early success rate with it [considering] it was only introduced in the last few weeks,” said Kruszewski.
He said he is blessed with great colleagues who try their best to keep up with the requests and questions from students regularly.
“We all try to get to emails as fast as possible, and I am very proud of the fact that we respond so quickly,” said Kruszewski.
Christopher Mooney, a full-time academic advisor at MCC, said he is one of the people responsible for continuing to keep academic advising organized as it stays exclusively online.
“My colleagues and I work on the back end of the operations; we delegate out the Zoom appointments and all of the advising requests that come in. For example, if we have new students that are coming in, they have the option to either choose a Zoom appointment or make an Advising Online request, and we then organize and delegate all of [them] to the advising staff. If there is an overload of requests, we also take them on as well,” said Mooney.
Mooney said he is usually online before 8:30 a.m.
“The first thing I do in the morning is check how many emails we have to get through, whether it’s current students or new students. [Also,] how many Zoom appointments we have and how many requests we have to fill from students. Once that is organized on a spreadsheet, I [relay] the information to the 12 part-time counselors and monitor and help the staff with anything they may need,” said Mooney.
Kruszewski said some of the biggest challenges the department faced was the volume of traffic, created by the students working remotely, and adapting to the new technology.
“We had to experiment with the technology and make sure that the right [information] was going to the correct person because we have a whole group of advisors that the new students are divided [amongst],” said Kruszewski.
He said they also have a transfer advisor that has been answering questions electronically throughout this time.
“Elizabeth Pajauis has been supplying students with detailed guidelines for applying to colleges during this time and is doing something similar to us,” said Kruszewski.
Elizabeth Pajauis, a transfer advisor at MCC, said, “The actual mechanics of transfer are still the same, once a college has been decided upon, go to that institution’s website and fill out an online application form. Next, transcripts from all colleges [a student] has attended need to be sent to the college being applied to; since transcripts are being sent electronically, even though the College is closed, transcripts still go out. Then, apply for financial aid, the FAFSA, even if you don’t think you will qualify for anything because many colleges use the financial aid applicant pool as their scholarship pool. Once all the above steps have been completed, colleges and universities will reply four to six weeks after the application and transcripts are received,” said Pajauis.
She said colleges are trying all sorts of ways to get the message out that they are active online and eager to answer students’ questions.
“Some [colleges] have posted virtual tours of their campuses, so that students can get a look at the place without breaking the do not travel rules. Some colleges have become more flexible about their admission requirements,” said Pajauis.
“Colleges and universities are eager for students to apply to them and are doing their admissions work online, from home as well,” Pajauis said.
Pajauis said that while she prefers to meet students face to face as well, she has always made it known to students that she welcomes questions through email, so answering questions online is not strange for her.
“When I meet with a student, I observe body language and [pay attention] to what they aren’t saying, just as much as what they are. It’s harder to do that with email, but not impossible,” said Pajauis.
Kruszewski said that while the transition to online was necessary, he misses operating face to face.
“I miss looking at a smile when we’ve accomplished something or a furrowed brow when someone still has another question,” said Kruszewski.
“We’ve had magnificent leadership from President McCormick and Vice President Linda Scherr, and all the chairs and deans have been wonderful; [whenever] we’ve had a question about how to help a student, they have sent very quick responses making the transition much easier,” Kruszewski said.
Kruszewski also said, “We know that students are in need right now, so we want to help as much as we can to make this aspect of their lives easier for them.”