SBS Champions: Advisors Go the Extra Mile for Students

June 9, 2020

With our SBS Champion series, we are celebrating faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends in the college who are helping our community and each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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SBS advisors on Zoom
SBS advisors (and furry friends) on Zoom.

 

Advisors in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences help students make the most of their time at the University of Arizona, from helping them pick out classes and internships to career planning.

The COVID-19 pandemic was disruptive and stressful for many of our students. Our advisors reached out to students and remained accessible as “virtual advisors.”

“In a time of uncertainty and change, advisors remained a constant, supportive presence in our students’ lives,” said Allison Ewing-Cooper, director of academic advising and student success in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “As well as answering the usual questions about picking classes, advisors had to help students navigate a new virtual world (e.g., finding remote internships, using Zoom, understanding the new P/F policy), while adjusting to it themselves. Our team’s dedication to student success never faltered.”

Challenges and Successes of Virtual Advising

Justin Betts advises students majoring in Law. “I knew I would need to become more comfortable with Zoom. It was fun (and humbling) learning how to get everything setup, but as soon as we could see each other, I felt an immediate change in my appointments. The conversations were more fluid for sure, but I think just being able to see each other in our homes with random, wonderful appearances from our pets made the experience less rote and more human.”

Sandra Holm, an advisor for English and Creative Writing majors, was pleased by how easy it was to connect with students via Zoom.

“The biggest success I would say is being able to connect with students face-to-face even when working virtually,” Holm said. “After spring break some students weren’t sure about where to turn and many were happy to hear that we were still available to help them.”

Holm said that one of her biggest challenges in recent months has been keeping up-to-date on all the new policies coming from the University. One of the best things to come out of virtual advising for her was the use of fillable and online forms.

“Being able to share my screen on Zoom was one of the most helpful tools for virtual advising,” Holm said.

Betts said the biggest challenge with advising – balancing the many demands for his time – didn’t change. But with the flexibility of Zoom, Betts adjusted his hours during class registration to be more available to students.

“I set up Zoom walk-in appointments at 6:00 AM for students who are running into registration issues,” Betts said. “If a student runs into a problem, they hop on Zoom and we troubleshoot the issue right then and there.”

Betts added, “It was nice to be able to use this platform we had to learn out of necessity in ways to improve the advising experience.”

Betts was also pleased that the new advising environment still allowed space for checking in on the well-being of the students.

“Despite the chaotic changes we all had to make, I was still able to talk with students about how their lives are going, and how they are doing,” Betts said. “I think being able to have such a seismic shift and still be able to make those connections consistently were huge successes.”

Betts said he’s happy when he hears from students that his advice helped them feel less stressed about their school schedule.

“Thank you for being an amazing advisor!” one student wrote to Betts. “You always answer all of my questions in a timely manner and give great advice! I am so lucky to have your guidance during my college career. I appreciate you so much!”

Holm said she received the following email from a student after she helped her finalize her fall schedule.

“You are an absolute life saver,” the student wrote. “I wouldn't even have had a fall semester if you hadn't messaged me asking me what was up, so thank you so much for your continued assistance during my time at the University!”