SGA focus groups seek to improve academic advising

By C. Aileen Blaine

Academic advising is an integral part of the college experience, and it’s an important resource to ensure that students graduate on schedule. Student Government Association will host focus groups offering students the chance to voice their critiques and suggestions on how to improve advising at Youngstown State University. 

Michael Cline, SGA vice president for assessment and enrichment, said he hopes the groups will foster student-led discussions on the concerns students have with academic advising on campus.

“Academic advising has been a talking point on YSU’s campus — among all the colleges, not just one specific college,” Cline said. “We thought that these academic advising focus groups would be able to give new light on student experiences, as compared to hearing it from faculty and staff.”

Common concerns Cline has observed include feeling a lack of communication between students and advisers. Others fear that “some things may slip through the cracks,” impacting their strict course scheduling and possibly their credits toward graduation, according to Cline. 

The 2021 data from the National Survey of Student Engagement indicates that the implementation of the YSU 1500 course has improved students’ opinion of academic advising at YSU in the two years it’s been available. Offered to first-year students, the success seminar provides students with a deep-dive into expectations and responsibilities in college, as well as introducing them to degree planning tools and co-curricular activities. Many sections are taught by academic advisers themselves. 

Justin Edwards, director of the Office of Career Exploration and Development, said his time as an academic adviser within the former Cliffe College of Creative Arts and Communications helped him understand the importance of communication between adviser and student.

“I think one of the things that students seek in academic advising is a relationship that goes beyond course selection,” Edwards said. “Academic advising as a field needs to be as much about understanding what the student needs outside of the classroom as it is about what the student needs to register for to graduate successfully.”

Through the career exploration and development office, Edwards takes the same principle of communication between adviser and student and applies it to helping undecided students find courses applicable to their interests and goals. He said meeting with an adviser frequently can help students gain a deeper understanding of how choices they make now play into their futures.

“Ultimately, they’ve got the reins and they’re in charge of how they approach their career developments,” Edwards said. “I see career development and academic advising [as] very interrelated. The courses that you take help you develop the skills that you’re going to market to employers.”

Cline acknowledged that, though some students may be nervous to speak up about their experiences or share their thoughts, the sessions — though recorded — will be kept confidential. All identifying details — including names — will be redacted from the records.

“The main reason we’re recording is to make it so that we can go back when we’re doing our final evaluation to get the big details,” Cline said. “Students don’t have to worry about their identities being compromised or some negative repercussions.” 

To incentivize student engagement, SGA will offer free meal vouchers for the campus Chick-fil-A to participants.

“Students are giving us their voice, so we want to give them something in return,” Cline said. 

Each session runs 4–5 p.m. on its respective date. The schedule is as follows:

  • Monday, Feb. 28: BCLASSE, STEM, WCBA
  • Tuesday, March 1: CCCA
  • Wednesday, March 2: BCHHS

The focus groups are sign-up only. For those interested in attending, check the email from SGA sent Friday, Feb. 18 for the link and more details.