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Major support

UGA is giving students an unrivaled level of advising support to ensure that they receive personalized guidance that is tailored to their aspirations from the moment they step onto campus.

The university has hired 35 new advisors over the past two years, is investing in the latest digital tools and — in fall 2016 — will open a facility at the heart of campus to support students who are undecided about their major.

"We're stepping up the quality of advising at UGA because — to put it simply — better advising results in greater success for our students," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. "Advisors play a central role in helping keep students on track for graduation and ensuring that their learning experiences are aligned with their career aspirations."

When it launches in fall 2016 on the first floor of the Tate Student Center, UGA's Exploratory Center will house advising support for undecided students as well as for pre-business and pre-journalism and mass communication students. Future plans call for the Exploratory Center to house advising services for pre-med, pre-law and transfer students.

Rahul Shrivastav, UGA's vice president for instruction, noted that nearly 70 percent of students at UGA change majors at least once during their undergraduate career. As the result of a change in major, students often have accrued credit hours that don't count toward the graduation requirements of their ultimate major. These additional credit hours increase the time that it takes for students to earn their degrees and, by extension, the cost of a college education.

"The advisors in our Exploratory Center will be guiding students through a structured, thoughtful process that begins with the big-picture question of what students want to do after graduation," Shrivastav said. "Students will find the major that's right for them and will save time and money by getting into that major sooner."

Shrivastav notes that the Exploratory Center and many of the other changes to advising at UGA were shaped by the input of the Office of the Vice President for Instruction's 14-member student advisory board.

"Choosing a major is a big commitment, and asking an 18-year-old fresh out of high school — or someone new to the university — to make a huge career choice is a lot to ask," said Student Advisory Board member Taylor Lamb, a fourth-year student pursuing degrees in public relations and international affairs. "This new center will provide really useful guidance that will help students find a major that is right for their career path."

Additional enhancements to academic advising at UGA include changes that will help create better and longer-term relationships between students and their advisors. A total of 35 additional academic advisors have been hired in the past two years to give students more time to interact and build relationships with their advisors.

"When faculty and full-time advisors work with students over a period of several years, they view and support them holistically, and not just as a collection of course credits," said Judy Iakovou, director of Academic Advising Services at UGA.

UGA is complementing its focus on enhancing the quality of in-person advising with new digital tools. In the fall the university will begin piloting an updated version of DegreeWorks, a Web-based tool that improves the ability of students and advisors to track progress toward degree completion. In 2017, the university will launch Go4UGA, a set of software tools that will enhance communication between students and advisors while also providing data across colleges to improve advising and provide insights on academic performance and trends. The university also is mining data to develop predictive analytics that identify students who are at risk for not progressing toward graduation in a timely manner as well as those who might benefit from pursuing a certificate or combined bachelor's and master's degree programs.

"Good advising is important because it helps students at the University of Georgia continue to be successful during their time here and after," said OVPI Student Advisory Board Member Jonathan Moss, a fourth-year student double-majoring in Spanish and agricultural and applied economics.

Moss said he is particularly excited about the Exploratory Center.

"This is something that would have been vital to me when I was trying to pick a major and had changed my major three times already," he said. "I'm excited that the university is giving students a place to ask questions and find help in discovering what their strengths are."

 

Published Sunday,