Academic advisors are with students every step of the way as classes continue online
At a glance, life at Concordia looks completely different than it did a year ago. But in some ways, appearances can be deceiving. Concordia’s Student Academic Services have carried on working remotely since March, and although their offices are closed, their teams are signing in from home daily, walking students through academic milestones and helping them overcome obstacles in their paths.
During a normal academic year, academic advisors are on hand for in-person drop-in sessions. But this year, they are connecting with students via email and weekly drop-in hours on Zoom. After several months of Zooming, students and advisors alike are comfortable with the format.
Support for Concordians across the globe
“The drop-in sessions have been popular,” said Amy Kimball, an Arts and Sciences advisor. “I talk to students all over the world, which is really cool. Normally, in an in-person situation, students would come into my office, and they would sometimes be nervous. They’d be sitting across from me, showing me their student record, and I’m behind my desk – it can seem a little bit intimidating, even though we work hard to make students feel comfortable. But now, they’re in their bedrooms, or at their kitchen table, and I’m at my kitchen table. It’s a little more relaxed.”
Perla Muyal, an academic advisor with the Faculty of Fine Arts, recognized a need for some immediate student support as soon as classes went online in March. “I was just as confused as student were, in terms of what was going to happen next,” she said. Along with her colleague, Faculty of Fine Arts undergraduate recruiter Heather Gagnon, Muyal started a weekly information clearinghouse for students, called Candid Conversations with Perla and Heather.
A consistent point of contact in a hectic time
“Whatever I would get from the university, information-wise, I would pass on to students,” explained Muyal. “What would happen with their request for a pass/fail grade? What was happening with exams? What was happening with summer term? What about deferrals? A million things came up. There would be anywhere between forty to eighty students, all through the summer and into September.”
Madeline Zaytsoff, a BFA student in the Computation Arts program, was one of the many Fine Arts undergrads to attend Candid Conversations. “They had Zoom meetings every Thursday at 6:30 and it was great to have that consistency,” she said. “We could just sit and listen or ask questions. A lot of other students asked questions that I didn’t even know to ask, but finding out the answers was super helpful. And it was nice to see a point of contact – a bit of face-to-face. It just helped assuage a lot of fears about what to expect.”
Asking for help: Never a bad idea
Advisors are always available to answer simple questions about academic procedures over email, but Shoshana Kalfon, another Arts and Science advisor, said that despite not being face-to-face, a Zoom call can make all the difference for a student struggling to overcome an academic hurdle.
“From an advising perspective, it’s about connecting, building a rapport, a relationship. If you need to make a big decision, or you’re asking for an exception to be made on your behalf, then talking to each other over Zoom, and seeing each other, enhances the experience. It makes it easier for the advisor to understand where you’re coming from.”