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USM Advisement Center’s Services Begin with New Academic Year

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 16:54pm | By: David Tisdale

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) new University Advisement Center on its Hattiesburg campus will serve as a single point for all new students at the school to get consistent advising and personalized guidance from professional advisors.

USM Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Dr. Amy Miller said the Advisement Center will complement the mentoring being done by faculty in the students’ majors by having a team of professional advisors with year-round availability for in-depth training, guidance, and referral of all of our new students.

“The purpose is to give each of our new students a single person who is responsible for advising them and working with them throughout their first year, then transitioning them to an advisor in their home major, after they are settled into a core set of skills necessary to navigate the University and their degree plan successfully,” Dr. Miller said.

The University Advisement Center will be located on the 2nd floor of Cook Library, in an area that is currently being renovated as part of the larger projects underway in that building. The first and second floor of Cook Library are being extensively redesigned to expand the student services that are available and improve the appearance for all patrons.

The Advisement Center will roll out in three phases – Phase I in the upcoming academic year (2019-2020) which will serve freshmen in select majors within the colleges of Arts & Sciences and Nursing & Health Professions. Over the two years to follow, it will expand each year until all freshmen are advised in the Advisement Center for the first year, and all transfer students are advised there for one semester.

Currently a director and four more professional advisors will be chosen, for a total of eight. At full capacity, the Center’s staff will include a director and 18 professional advisors, each with a caseload of about 250 students.

“It’s going to be a beautiful space, and we are thrilled that the Advisement Center will be in Cook Library,” Dr, Miller said. “The new space is scheduled to open in late spring 2020, but we will be doing a soft roll-out of phase I. of the Center this fall, in a temporary space on the first floor of Cook, behind Starbucks.” 

Dr. Miller said having the Advisement Center in Cook Library has many benefits.

“The library is at the heart of campus, and it is a place all students know and pass through, so we hope it will be a comfortable location for students to stop by the Advisement Center regularly,” she said. “Also, because Cook Library is open and staffed on evenings and weekends, we will be able to offer some Advisement Center hours during those times. I believe that is important, because often those are the hours when students need to see an advisor, rather than traditional ‘work hours,’ and we want to meet the students where they are.”

Another inspiration for establishing the new Advisement Center is so students will have a designated individual focused on their success and is “their person,” Dr. Miller said, “someone they know they can call or email when they have a question and don’t know who to ask.”

“Students of today also need support in making that transition into college, and learning what to expect, from everything from SOAR to where to get tutoring to how to think about selecting a major,” Dr. Miller continued. “Having a space where we have dedicated, prepared professionals who understand our commitment to supporting, encouraging, and pushing our students to succeed will be a powerful way for us as an institution to invest in our newest students, and ensure they have the support of a dedicated advisor.”

Dr. Miller said that by adding this level of advisement to the work already done by faculty, it will free up some of the time they spend with students to focus more on mentorship and guidance within the discipline.

Students at the USM Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach have similar academic support resources, including the Gulf Park Advisement Center, Student Services One Stop, and the Academic Success Center.

Laura Malone, an instructor in the USM School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development, has work with numerous undergraduate student populations over the course of her career at the university. She believes that, if done well, the advisement process becomes more meaningful to students than just accurately communicating degree requirements to them.

“Having a landing center in the heart of campus for first year students, students researching major options, and students navigating the world of advisement and registration will be a nice feeling for this veteran advisor,” Malone said. “I cannot wait until we cut the ribbon in opening the new University Advisement Center, and opening its doors.”

For more information, contact New Student and Retention Programs at nsrpFREEMississippi or visit https://www.usm.edu/new-student-retention-programs/campus-resources.php.