UC's academic services help students navigate uncertain times

A&S advisers innovate remotely to keep students on track, adjust to 'new normal'

By Adam Cline

When COVID-19 first hit the University of Cincinnati, College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) student Claire Kelley began to struggle. Kelley was in the midst of figuring out what major she wanted to transfer into.  “I struggled to make the decision, but after meeting with my adviser, I felt more confident,” says Kelley.

She had to declare her new path for school--a double major in biology and neuroscience--from home, which was stressful. However, her academic adviser walked her through every step of the process and helped her plan for the upcoming year and even into the future--all through email and phone calls. “My adviser was so helpful and really (got) me through the difficult time,” says Kelley.

The abrupt change of UC moving remote not only made things much different for A&S students, but for their academic advisers as well. When Loren Papin, an A&S senior academic adviser for declared majors, first started working from home, she admits it was difficult. “We’re having to transition as we go, and we didn’t necessarily have a plan ahead of time … the abruptness of the change certainly impacted a lot of us. It was just so sudden, and it was so unexpected.”

A&S Senior Academic Advisor Loren Papin

A&S Senior Academic Advisor Loren Papin

Nevertheless, Papin began to adjust fairly quickly. Papin realized “the core of our job hasn’t really changed. Our job is to be available to students,” but “the way that we do that is a little bit different.”

Matt Pickett, an A&S senior adviser for exploratory majors, had similar feelings. “The functions of my job are still the same. It’s just having to adapt to a new way of doing them,” says Pickett.

Papin and Pickett do both miss meeting face-to-face with their students. “There are certainly some things I miss about meeting students in person,” says Papin. Pickett says he is “very much an extrovert” which made the transition harder for him. “I’m a really face-to-face kind of person. I don’t like phone calls in general. Since I’ve had to do a lot more phone appointments than normal, that’s harder for me personally,” Pickett says.

Even though both Papin and Pickett miss meeting with students face-to-face, the change has actually allowed them to be more efficient with their meetings and be able to meet with more students. “We really have been able to maintain our availability to students and even be more available,” says Papin. She says since going virtual, advisers can go from one meeting into the next much more easily.

Aashka Raval, a second-year student at UC and student body treasurer, says she has not noticed a difference in availability or readiness to help since advising went remote. Raval also says she “personally like(s) the online avenue better.”

A&S Senior Academic Advisor Matt Pickett

A&S Senior Academic Advisor Matt Pickett

Pickett says he also sees increased efficiencies in remote advising. “Students would come for a half-hour appointment, and we would only need 10 or 11 minutes,” he says. Moving appointments to video chat or email enables Pickett to “get to the students faster.” And over email, students can now get a response from Pickett a lot sooner.

Despite this unexpected change, Papin and Pickett have both began to enjoy little things working from home. Papin says sleeping in allows her to be “in a better mental state” to help students. Papin also says it has been nice “going outside, going for a walk, and … taking breaks from looking at a screen.”

Pickett has also begun to enjoy some advantages from being home. “It was a little hard emotionally at first, but I figured out how to deal with that.. … There’s kind of little comforts of home that I was able to figure out how to incorporate into my work that ended up pretty cool actually.”

Both advisers say learning to adjust quickly helped them excel. “It’s really been interesting to see us as a team to go through the stages of adjusting to this change,” says Papin. “I finally settled into a new routine working from home and a new sense of normal right now.”

Want to find out more about A&S academic advising? Read A&S advisers recognized for commitment to UC students.

Feature image at top: Student working at a laptop. Photo/StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay.