Freshman portfolios help to plan for the future

By Dalton Karwacki

Academic advising during course selection will become a more  organized and efficient process for students, thanks to the university’s new academic portfolio program, according to Associate Dean of Freshmen Ira Mayo

The program provides freshmen with advising portfolios containing a number of documents intended to help clarify and simplify the advising process.

One of the main items in the portfolio is the academic advising guidelines, which include information about what students can expect from the advising process. The portfolio also features the “My Rider Strategic Plan” page, a sheet that makes it easier for students to plan their courses for all four years.

According to Mayo, the portfolio program looks to transform the current advising experience, which he admits is not always an entirely helpful one.

“The big deal is that, if we get the students prepared in advance, it stops being just a form signing,” he said. “This is a forward-thinking program, so advising stops being rote and becomes more of a discussion.”

Mayo said that the process should look more to what students ultimately want to do after completing their education and the best way to get there.

“That kind of discussion becomes much easier with a prepared student,” he said.

Students seem to appreciate the school’s efforts in providing the portfolios.

“I know I like that they’re so organized and well laid out,” freshman Mike Vassos said. “I’m not really that organized, so this should really help.”

Vassos also said that he was pleased that the university did not try to do too much in the portfolios.

“It’s great that they didn’t overwhelm you with information,” he said.

Student preparation is an important part of the advising process, according to Mayo. This includes making a preliminary plan for meeting their major’s requirements, something that the portfolio offers guidelines on.

“If everybody does what they’re supposed to do, it becomes a real mentoring opportunity,” Mayo said.

According to Mayo, the idea for the portfolios came from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) conference in the summer of 2010.

“NACADA does a summer institute on advising which is taught by a number of administrators,” Mayo said. “If you have some issues with advising, they look at them and help you.”

Mayo said that most students received advising portfolios in their freshman seminar courses, and that other students could also obtain them.

“If you’re a freshman not in a seminar, you can go to the Student Success Center,” he said. “If you’re a transfer student, you go to the dean’s office for your school.”

All of the portfolios are essentially the same, though each school’s is slightly different, he said.

“They all follow the same basic structure, but there may be some variation depending on the school,” he said.

The program was tested last year and deemed a success before it was formally launched this semester.

“We piloted this last year with a couple sections of students,” Mayo said. “Afterward, the advisers came to us and said that the students with a portfolio were better prepared.”

He said that, moving forward, the university will keep watching the program by surveying students and advisers to ensure that the portfolios are accomplishing their goals.

“We’re going to try to assess it thoroughly to see if it makes any difference,” Mayo said.

Mayo said that he is very hopeful for the future of the program.

“This could be a kind of a cultural revolution,” he said.

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