Advice on advising

Finding direction in the academic world can be daunting, but the University of Alaska Anchorage advising staff can help students map their way through their higher education.

UAA advisers can help students to work toward program completion and academic success. Photo courtesy of the UAA Academic Advising website.

Advisers are able to provide students with resources and answers to assist them in planning their academic roadmap, according to Valerie Robideaux, the director of UAA’s First Year Student Advising and Success program.

“First year advisers offer on-boarding support for students, helping them through placement, getting them connected to orientation, those kinds of things,” Robideauex said. “And they offer academic advising and student support for the first 30 credits. They’re robustly trained in campus resources, so they know how and when to connect students to those resources.”

Working with an adviser can lead students to choose the best courses for their personal career plan within their degree program, and ensure necessary paperwork is completed as a student’s degree progresses.

“What I love about advisers is that they all care about the success of students. So, they’re great cheerleaders to have in your back pocket, who wouldn’t want that encouragement?” Robideaux said.

New students may not have a specific program in mind when starting at UAA, so advisers are able to help with exploring possible futures. 

“We have a lot of exploratory students,” Robideaux said.

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Though UAA has many students interested in programs including health, sciences and engineering, advisers can help talk through strategies for students to approach their eventual degree or program selection.

Academic advisers that work with the many schools and programs offered by UAA can help with more in-depth conversations, such as more detailed guidance in degree planning, paperwork and are great sounding boards for potential careers paths or degree changes. 

Though meeting with an adviser isn’t necessarily required, students have a plethora of staff and faculty that can help them navigate their futures. 

“Best practice [on meeting with an adviser] is at least once a semester before enrolling in the next term,” Robideaux said.

Other academic advisers also suggest meeting at least once before each semester to determine best course needs, the availability of classes or to explore any necessary prerequisites for courses, even for higher level students.

Students are able to meet with their adviser throughout the entirety of their higher education. Most programs have advisers that students can seek out for information, and each school maintains advisers for students to connect with.

“We [advisers] are a wealth of knowledge. Advisers help students create their academic plans and when students meet regularly with their advisers, it ultimately helps them stay on track,“ Whitney Flores, a UAA student success coach with the UAA Culinary Arts & Hospitality Administration program, said.

Students may not be familiar with the many resources available at UAA and advisers can help to assist with education decisions and guidance to additional resources.

“We do a lot more than pick courses,” Whitney Tisdale, academic adviser with the UAA School of Nursing, said.

One of the biggest differences of higher education from high school is the variety of programs and schools that a student can be a part of, but now the student is the driving force in determining their future. Advisers can help in this process. 

“The biggest [transition] is being a self-advocate for your education and for your goals. This is no longer a set program of english, math, science, you have to do this all through 12th grade. This is now higher ed. The cool part about higher ed… it’s what you want to do,” Tisdale said.

Based on the recommendations from several members of UAA’s advising staff, there are a number of ways that students can prepare for meeting with an adviser:

  • The student needs to make sure that they are able to log-in to UAOnline.
  • Research UAA and available programs prior to the meeting. This can help students to devise questions for their adviser.
  • Complete or have a plan to complete any needed placement tests. Scores will help advisers to determine which courses are needed for registration.

Another program available to students through the UAOnline portal is the DegreeWorks program, which can provide students with information on their academic status, their current adviser and completion progress toward their degree. Though DegreeWorks can help with planning, it is best to meet with an adviser as well.

“DegreeWorks is a tool, but not an expert,” Robideaux said. “You and your adviser will likely use DegreeWorks together as a reference; however, advisers are trained to help you think through important college decisions.”

Both Tisdale and Flores echoed Robideaux’s suggestion of using DegreeWorks as a tool, but not completely relying upon the program to always provide an ideal route to graduation.

By pairing an adviser with DegreeWorks, a student can be more aware of what direction or courses they will need to successfully reach their goals.

The first step to meeting with your adviser is to schedule an appointment. Students can use the Seawolf Tracks (Navigate) app to find appointment times and to schedule the meeting. The app will also assist students by sending a reminder to their email prior to the meeting date.

Though the first-year advising program is provided to incoming freshmen, advisers are available for students of all programs. Students can find out who their adviser is by looking it up on DegreeWorks, calling the “Who’s my Adviser?” hotline at (907) 786-1000 or through the advising website.