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Vol 56 No. 15 | Nov. 2004
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Academic Advising
25 Years of Advising

CSULB's Academic Advising Center is celebrating 25 years of changing lives in 2004.

The center has averaged more than 65,000 student contacts a year for several years, explained Director Marilee Samuelson, who has been a member of the university since 1979.

“Our student clients range in age from freshmen to seniors, from 17-year-olds to 70-year-olds, and include every ethnicity, reside in every college and have come to the center with every academic question imaginable,” she said. The center is looking both to the past and future as it develops and implements important campus academic programs and services.

“It's been 25 years of hard work,” said Samuelson. “The center is responsible for such innovations as the program planners used by the whole university, the strategies for academic success program in 1982, the Student Orientation and Registration and the Parent Orientation Program (POP) that came out of that in 1985.   Since many of our freshmen are first-generation college students, POP has continued to motivate and support these important family members.”

Suzanne Wurzer, associate director of the center and member of the university since 1972, agrees that the center has a record of excellence.

“In 2002, the center developed and implemented, with the cooperation of Enrollment Services, the Graduation Green Light Project, a program dedicated to assisting those seniors who did not graduate because of mitigating circumstances,” said Wurzer. “These students are contacted while all their records are searched for what kept them from graduating. The project just hit the 100 mark for students helped in one year.”

One of the center's most important services is planning the academic program. “The center must look to the student's interest and not point them to classes just because they begin at 9 a.m.,” she said. “The center connects students to potential faculty advisers and helps them think about picking one major from the three or four they have in mind.”

The center is especially pleased by its new offices, which opened their doors in 2001.

“We're so in love with it,” said Samuelson. “It's just been wonderful for us, and even more wonderful for students. We need the kind of room to see thousands of students before they choose their next semester courses. We've been able to impact significantly the first-year student probation rate over the last 10 years. In 1991, it was. 30.9. Today, it is 11.7. Of course, this reduction is the result of a campus-wide effort, but the center is where students stop and think clearly with some support.”

The new home is one of the busiest offices on campus.

“We work 12 months a year, five days a week,” says Wurzer. “Someone is always waiting for an appointment, and if the client doesn't show, there is someone else waiting. We deal with all grade levels, and see as many seniors as freshmen. The older students want confirmation of how close they are to graduation and transfer students use the center to acclimate.”

One key to the center's success is empathy. “It's fundamental,” said Samuelson. “Most students who arrive at our doors have been from place to place. They are frustrated. The center must serve as an advocate for students. That advocacy ranges from getting them in touch with their department chair to an academic appeal. It helps that many of our staff are near the age of the students they serve. That way, the students feel they can tell the staff things they might not tell anyone else.   When students have problems, this is the first place they come to.”

There are still mountains for the center to climb in the next 25 years. “I want us to minimize the barriers to graduation imposed by the campus itself,” concluded Samuelson. “I want the center to help raise retention and graduation rates to a significant degree. When I call together the whole center staff every morning, that's often what I tell them our goal is that day.”
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