College of Education opens Student Academic Services suite

The College of Education’s Student Academic Services suite is now open following a summer renovation to reflect a recent advising model shift for students in the college.

Aiming to make services more accessible, the suite is now a “one-stop shop” for all undergraduate advising needs.

The suite, on the first floor of the HEDCO Building in Room 130, is outfitted with a charging bar, new furniture, redesigned offices and more. Staff in the suite specialize in academic programs, scholarships, international recruiting and graduate recruiting.

The newly configured office will formally launch with an open house event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 23.

With a combination of staff knowledgeable across a variety of student support areas, the student services office will be easy for any undergraduate at the College of Education to navigate. It offers four academic advisers, a director of recruitment and events, an international student recruitment and retention adviser, a scholarship adviser and a graduate recruiter.

“We don’t separate international student services from academic advising or from scholarships,” said Randy Kamphaus, the dean of the College of Education. “It’s all knitted together.”

The suite renovation was designed with students in mind. Located right next to the coffee shop, the suite is meant to be a space students regularly visit to ask questions and spend time between classes. Above all, the college wants students to feel welcome and supported in the suite.

“We have charging stations so that students can come in, charge their computers and do some work and hang out, but they’re close to us, and hopefully build relationships with us,” said Emma Bjorngard Basayne, a new academic adviser at the college this year. “We’re really hoping to bring everyone together in this space.”

The renovation was guided by the college’s goal to better serve its students. Creating a space dedicated to students and shifting the advising model was a step toward achieving that goal.

In previous years, students could only meet with the one adviser who specialized in the student’s program. According to Julie Wren, the assistant dean of accreditation and assessment, that advising was very successful but made scheduling options narrow.

At the same time, advisers were spread throughout the HEDCO Building and the College of Education complex. Students were often moving between advisers and navigating between several different offices.

“Shifting our advising model was not an easy decision as it had been favorably rated by our students,” Wren said. “We knew that shifting the model would allow students greater access to services, but, at the same time, we did not want to lose the vital connection between academic advisers and program faculty.”

Starting in summer 2020, advisers were cross-trained across the college’s academic offerings to serve a variety of student needs. Academic advisers retained specific areas of expertise but became more flexible at advising across programs. The change let students choose their adviser while maintaining high-quality advising no matter where a student landed.

“Students will have all of this expertise at their fingertips with all of us here, where we’re able to support them,” Bjorngard Basayne said.

To the College of Education faculty, the decision to redesign the advising model and the student suite is an effort to remove barriers to education. Easily accessible scholarship advising will make it easier for students to get help in affording an education. There is also a focus on diversity: Of the eight advisers located in the suite, five are bilingual and several are bicultural.

Ixchel Verdugo, another new academic adviser in the suite, said being bicultural and bilingual has everything to do with the way the staff advises.

“We know, to a certain extent, some of those unique struggles that students who belong to minoritized groups face,” she said. “That makes it easier for us to find specific resources and advise them in a way that is not generic.”

The suite provides students with the resources and support needed to be successful on their journey before, during and after college. So a portion of the funds for the project were drawn from the Boone Fund, which was set up to help support students as they transition into and out of college.

Kristi Schneider, the director of development at the College of Education, said that investments in spaces like the student suite, dedicated to supporting students and helping them graduate, are part of the university’s commitment to students and their families.

“I would love for College of Education students to feel like we're all on their team and for them to not feel isolated,” Schneider said. “I want them to know that if they come up against a challenge, adversity or financial barrier, they have a team of people there that care about them and will do anything to help them.”

By Madeline Ryan, College of Education