Remarks to faculty senate, Sept. 15:
Thank you for inviting me to come speak with you about the Academic Advising Center. I’m sure you are aware of the supreme court nominee who’s been meeting with a different group of senators… and telling them he’s an “umpire” not a player – that he’s just there to interpret the rules, not play the game.
Well, today, I’m here to tell you I am NOT an umpire. I don’t just interpret the rules… I play the game, fully and completely. And I am enjoying it very much. In fact, I hit three home runs during advising this morning.
Your time is valuable, and I only want to take a few minutes of it today. I want to:
- Highlight some important achievements of the past year
- Identify goals and projects to be undertaken this year
- AND, express some serious concerns I have about the future of the Academic Advising Center.
I hope you have had a chance to review the document sent in advance that details some of the successes of the past year. You can find much greater detail of our progress in the Academic Advising Center annual report – linked to our web site.
Even though we were fully staffed for only half the academic year, we have an impressive record of work with students.
The 2005-06 school year presents us with a different set of challenges and opportunities. We now have more than 300 undecided freshmen in CLS assigned to the AAC for advising. We’re teaching a section of UWL 100 out of the AAC, and preparing to take on the administration of all sections of that course next fall. We’ve taken over the “sample SNAP” process and are getting, on average, more than a dozen sample SNAP requests every day. Our web site has been expanded this fall- and is receiving, on average, about 40 hits a day by users seeking answers to their academic advising questions. Our summer canoe trip was very successful, and we want to do it again next summer- with more spots for more freshmen to be involved. We have three ¼-time release faculty working in the AAC this year, and they are helping us in a variety of ways to educate the campus community to the importance of effective advising. We want to see a campus-wide definition of academic advising so that students, faculty, and staff are all in agreement about the focus of this work.
In short, the Academic Advising Center has become a critical part of our educational community. I thank you for working with us to make this happen.
Now- some concerns I have for the future:
The budgetary process has been difficult to get a grip on. (That’s a huge understatement.) I cannot see any rationality to the management of debits and credits in the system the university uses. From my perspective, the AAC is spending as little as possible – but as much as we need – to educate students to the existence of the AAC, and to provide them with the help they need. Sharon Radtke recently told me our spending is “on target” – which is good, because the accounting process is so convoluted I can only make educated guesses about what funds we have to work with, and what we have spent. So when Sharon told me we are “on target” I take her word for it, and move forward.
The Provost has been totally supportive of my work, and I’m grateful to her for that. When she decided to include the Academic Advising Center in the new Enrollment Management unit, she asked me what I thought before this decision was finalized. I was in favor- and remain in favor – of us being a part of Enrollment Management. At the same time, all the other offices in this unit are “service” units. The AAC is not a service unit. I think it’s critical that we never lose sight of that. Academic advising is developmental; it is a teaching function. In the Academic Advising Center, we teach students to become self-reliant. The AAC can work well within Enrollment Management as long as we never lose sight of that fact- we are teachers.
Along the same lines, I think it is critical that the faculty retain control over academic advising. In the difficult budget times we’re experiencing, it’s easy to focus on the dollars and cents, on the service function – and not on the academic responsibilities that come first. We have a moral responsibility to provide our students with academic advising, and to use their funding the way they requested – no exceptions! The AAC is meeting that responsibility. The faculty must never surrender their role as overseers of both the providing of advising AND the spending of the students’ dollars in the way the students asked. The AAC must never be allowed to become just another service office. This is especially important given that the AAC will be managing all the sections of UWL 100 next fall. If we are teaching students to become academically self-reliant, and if we are managing academic programs – we are an academic unit.
My contract ends at the conclusion of this academic year. I have told the Provost and Diane Schumacher that I would like to return to full-time teaching. But, I am willing to discuss some level of continued involvement in the AAC. Mostly, my feeling is that I have built something very important to the university – I do not want to see what I have built be taken apart. I do not want to see this academic unit be turned into just another service function of the university. If that happens – if the AAC is broken up, disassembled, or otherwise altered in focus - the Academic Advising Center will fail – the funding our students have provided will have been squandered, and we will have broken our moral commitment to the students. I thank you for working with me to see that this does not happen.
I will be happy to take any questions.
Doug Swanson, Ed.D APR
Director, Academic Advising Center