Advising for Spring

by gwilson on Nov.06, 2012, under Uncategorized

Gram negative rodsAs a microbiologist, it is easy to look at the image of Gram negative rods at left and see uniformity in shape, metabolism, and genetics.  Each cell like the other.  I think sometimes, particularly at big schools where majors are as plentiful as the bacteria in the micrograph, students can encounter faculty who see their students in the same way.  Major, classification, ID number, career goal.  It can be easy to miss the uniqueness of each individual and their journey to graduation from college.

I mention this because it is hard to believe the fall semester is so far gone that it is time to start looking to January.  This week marks the advising period before spring registration begins on Monday.  Students are meeting with advisors, looking at short term and long term scheduling of courses, and seeing the conclusion of their college careers begin to take shape.

I am back on campus for this event, taking a temporary break from my sabbatical to allow me to spend time with my advisees.  Like most faculty, advising consists of two separate but equally important facets:  what does the total four-year degree package and career goal look like, and how can the next semester best contribute to that plan.  In the past few days, I’ve met with a good portion of my advisees and our conversations included the following:

  • A sophomore student working to graduate in three years (MANY BIMS majors finish in 3-3.5 yrs) and trying to get some key courses taken this spring to help prepare her for the MCAT in May.  Human Physiology or Microbiology? ( Because of courses she has taken and emphasis in the MCAT, we decided on Human Phys).
  • Another sophomore student planning on the 3.5 yr plan and trying to best schedule courses this spring to enable management of biochemistry, molecular biology, physics, and other science courses next year.  Can we squeeze in a minor in Spanish and the two semesters of Human A&P as electives.  (Depends on whether you want a Biochem minor and Immunology).
  • Three junior students all planning on writing Honors Theses next spring and interested in how to position themselves to complete their research and all other Honors requirements before this time next year. (It is possible if literature search begins this spring and research begins this summer.  And one expectation I have for Honors students is that they submit their work for publication in addition to writing their Honors Thesis).
  • A freshman transfer student eager to find ways to maximize the contributions of credit already earned elsewhere toward completion of her BIMS degree, all the while looking at how to best prepare for PA school. (We will have to petition for a course substitution to keep her on course).
  • Another student whose road to teacher certification in the sciences is being charted, using courses transferred from junior college.  Our goal is to take her unconventional course selection and timing and translate it into student teaching next fall. (Depends on whether she can get four Education courses completed this spring and summer).

In each of these situations, unique personalities, skill sets, career goals, and personal journeys have contributed to tailored and intentional advising.  McMurry is not a place where students are shoved into a cookie-cutter plan for their degree and left to fend for themselves.  We see advising as a cooperative effort between student and faculty to accomplish the goal.  It is one of our greatest teaching/service accomplishments, as we look at the person and imagine and vision how best to help dream become reality.

I am honored and blessed to work with other faculty who are as intentional in their dedication to personalized student success as I am, and who routinely go beyond adequate to be excellent in their contributions to student achievement and success.  I fully expect that from this group will come at least three doctors, two PAs, a graduate student in a biomedical science, and an exceptional middle school science teacher.  After all, that is what we are working toward.

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