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Advising Director Samuelson Retires After 30 Years on Campus

Published: October 1, 2009

Marilee Samuelson, director of the University Center for Undergraduate Advising, retired on Sept. 30 after 30 years at CSULB. On Sept. 23, more than 130 faculty and staff honored Samuelson as a visionary leader, a champion for student success and a driving force behind CSULB’s rising graduation rate.

“Marilee has positively impacted and changed the lives of thousands of CSULB students over the years,” President F. King Alexander said. “We all are much better people because of the great things she has accomplished during her tenure here.”

Marilee Samuelson
Photo by Victoria Sanchez
Marilee Samuelson (l) with Vice Provost David Dowell.

At the celebration, Samuelson was presented with a plaque recognizing her transformative leadership and a CSULB rocking chair inscribed with her name. In addition, Library Dean Roman Kochan announced that the University Library had made a $5,000 contribution to a new scholarship in her name. The Marilee Samuelson Scholarship Fund will provide financial assistance to students who are peer advisors.

“This is truly the end of an era on campus,” said Vice Provost Dave Dowell, who served as Samuelson’s supervisor for three years. “Without the wisdom of Marilee and her staff, thousands of students would have been completely lost trying to fulfill general education and graduation requirements. In my opinion, there is no single individual at CSULB who has helped more students than Marilee Samuelson. She is truly in a class by herself.”

Samuelson began working at the center, formerly known as the Academic Advising Center, in 1979, one year after it opened. She began as a peer advisor helping students select classes and overcome hurdles to graduation while earning her bachelor’s degree in anthropology. After four years she became the director. Over the past 26 years, she has built the Center from a program with 20 part-time peer advisors crammed in small quarters in what is now the Academic Services building to today’s operation with 17 staff members and more than 80,000 student contacts annually in the Horn Center.

Throughout her career, Samuelson implemented numerous advising programs, including the nationally recognized Graduation Greenlight program, which provides advising to ensure students meet graduation requirements. At the Education Advisory Board’s Provost Roundtable meeting in Washington D.C. in June, Graduation Greenlight was recognized as a national model for ensuring students successfully graduate. In addition, a June 12 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted the impact the program and advisors have had on the university’s commitment to student success. It has been credited with raising CSULB’s graduation rate to an all-time high of 54 percent.

Additional programs Samuelson created or helped implement include:
• Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR), aimed at easing new undergraduate students’ transition to the university.
• The Counterpart Program to develop dialogue between community college counselors and academic advisors in the advising center.
• The first multicultural program for peer advisors campus-wide. The purpose of the program was to better develop communication and sensitivity skills.
• The Parent Orientation Program (POP), a retention program to provide academic information and support for families of entering freshmen.
• The Young Scholars Program in conjunction with University Outreach and School Relations.
• The Linking Interest, Needs, Knowledge and Strategies (L.I.N.K.S.) program to enhance freshmen opportunities for success during their first semester on campus.
• Strategies for Academic Success to help at-risk students, a program continues to thrive and is instrumental in student retention.
• The Mandatory Advising Program for freshmen. Under Samuelson’s leadership, the center also assisted in implementing the Mandatory Second Semester Advising program that ensures students are meeting their general education and freshmen requirements.

“I’m very proud of the many programs that we started and the university adopted,” Samuelson said. “Someone is very fortunate in their life if they find a job that makes them want to go to work every morning. It has been a wonderful privilege to work with people I admire and great students. To help them find ways to solve their problems and the feeling that one gets when you can help them is rewarding. I have loved every minute of it – even the hard times.

“I think what I will miss most will be the contact with the students and with my whole staff because they are like family,” Samuelson said. “I have been very fortunate to work with Vice Provost Dave Dowell and Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies Lynn Mahoney. Dave has always been so supportive. He really pushed the center ahead. Lynn has been a joy to work with because of her dedication to students and also because of her background as an academic advisor.”

During her retirement, Samuelson plans to read and travel with her husband, Dave, who was a CSULB English professor for 43 years and retired in spring 2009.

Senior Director of Advising Gayle Fenton will be the acting director of the University Center for Undergraduate Advising, effective Oct. 1, while continuing to serve as director of Student-Athlete Services.