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Campus & Community

New Spin on Annual Conference Strengthens Academic Advising at Drexel

August 30, 2019

Janet Golon, left, and Shawna Morse. Golon presented Morse with the Outstanding New Advisor Award.
Janet Golon, left, and Shawna Morse. Golon presented Morse with the Outstanding New Advisor Award.

At Drexel University, advisors are situated in every college and school, as well as different departments and centers, to support undergraduate and graduate students in reaching their educational and professional goals. And last month, the advisors — professional and faculty academic advisors as well as career and major-specific advisors — supported each other at a special in-house two-day retreat, which was revamped this year to enable even more networking, collaborating and engagement with different departments across the University. 

Over 100 advisors attended Drexel’s annual academic advising retreat, which was held on Aug. 21 and 22 and featured 18 different sessions and presentations relevant to aiding and guiding student success. The retreat was split into two days’ worth of activities (rather than cramming them into one day, as in past years) and was restructured to resemble a conference, with concurrent sessions. The expanded time and offerings gave advisors more options and choices to gain valuable professional development ideas, skills and opportunities.

This was a deliberate choice made by Director of Inter-College Advising Michelle Spina and Director of Advisor Training & Development Janet Golon, both from the Office of Inter-College Advising in Enrollment Management & Student Success.

“This has been happening for a couple of years now, and it’s a special occasion for advisors who work in similar ways but in different areas and don’t always get to see everyone,” said Spina. “And especially with this year’s retreat, people had more opportunities to share ideas for new initiatives and spread some knowledge that everyone can benefit from.” 

The first day of programming featured sessions with partners from all over the University, including those from the Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Equality and Diversity’s Disability Resources, Student Life, the Center for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS),  Student Conduct, the Steinbright Career Development Center, Office of Global Engagement and Education Abroad and Department of Performing Arts. On the second day, advisors ran sessions highlighting approaches, initiatives and opportunities that could be duplicated in other areas of the Universities. These included presentations on everything from creating an advising portal to peer mentoring to facilitating small group advising sessions.

The last day also featured Golon’s launch of the Academic Advisor Mentoring Program, which included a special training and match event for academic advisors at Drexel. Thirty-six advisors were paired in mentor/mentee relationships in which those with more experience at Drexel would meet once a month. The pairs were chosen based on common interests as well as differing areas of expertise.

Dane Zdunowski, senior academic advisor in the College of Enigineering, with Teal Golden. Zdunowski presented Golden with the Outstanding Professional Advisor Award.
Dane Zdunowski, senior academic advisor in the College of Enigineering, with Teal Golden. Zdunowski presented Golden with the Outstanding Professional Advisor Award.

The idea of the mentorship pairing came from Golon’s prior experience at Temple University, where she went through a similar program and wanted to bring those benefits and opportunities to her colleagues at Drexel.

“I’ve benefited greatly from being both a mentor and mentee, and I thought this could be a really great program and a way to break down silos at Drexel,” she said.

The retreat ended with two advisors receiving awards for their service to the University and the students at Drexel. Shawna Morse, an academic advisor in the Office of the Dean of the LeBow College of Business, received the Outstanding New Advisor Award in recognition of her professional development and collaborative relationships. Teal Golden, an assistant director in the Office of the Dean of the LeBow College of Business, received the Outstanding Professional Advisor Award for her contributions to the Drexel advising community, like co-founding an academic peer-advising program and serving on committees including one related to advisor training and development.

Now that the retreat is over, the advisors have had the chance to experience their community and reflect on its impact on making a difference in student lives at Drexel.

“In my three decades working with students, I honestly can’t think of a more influential and important group of professional colleagues than academic advisors,” said Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Success Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD, in her welcoming address.

And with the start of the new academic year just around the corner, the retreat came at the perfect time for these Dragons to work together, and within their own areas, to change the culture of advising and improve the student experience at Drexel. 

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