Helping students bridge the calendar conversion

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A. Sue Weisler

Sydney Seaver, senior professional advisor, works with third-year student Kevin Mulholland to evaluate course options in pursuit of his computer engineering technology degree. Advising is a key aspect of RIT’s pledge to help all students effectively navigate the upcoming switch to semesters.

Sydney Seaver is happy to tell students she had a “fabulous college experience.” Having grown up outside of Boston, she took a chance on her desire to go somewhere completely different by enrolling at the University of Montana.

“When I talk to students now, I say, ‘Push your comfort zone,’” says Seaver, “because you never know what will happen. For me, it turned out to be a very positive experience.”

But when it comes to helping students meet their academic requirements, she insists that students leave nothing to chance. As a senior professional advisor in the College of Applied Science and Technology, Seaver has spent the past six years in the Department of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunication Engineering Technology working to ensure students graduate in a timely manner.

For Seaver and RIT’s other academic advisors, that responsibility becomes even more critical in preparation for the calendar conversion in fall 2013.

“We have to figure out for students who have studied on the quarter system what their remaining years look like on semesters,” she says.

Work continues on the redesign of RIT’s curricula. Each academic program is subject to evaluation and approval by the New York State Department of Education, a process scheduled to conclude by summer. According to Lynne Mazadoorian, director of institute advising, that will open the door for all students to meet one-on-one with advisors, beginning this fall, to craft individual advising plans that navigate students through the calendar change.

“The goal is for students to meet with their advisor and understand how their registration behaviors, course completion behaviors and other aspects of their academic experience may impact their time to graduation,” says Mazadoorian.

At the heart of this process is the university’s pledge that no student be negatively impacted by the conversion. By focusing on personal advising and stressing the importance that students stay on track with their degree program, each student is assured no loss of progress toward degree completion as the transition from quarters to semesters takes effect.

To help make that happen, RIT has hired and trained 10 new advisors, and four more will be added to the staff this summer. Additionally, the entire advising team will receive training on a new student information system, which becomes operational in time for the 2012–2013 academic year. It’s an ambitious agenda, but Mazadoorian is confident that it allows the university to work within the best interests of its students.

“I’m just delighted when I consider the amount of time that students will have to process information between terms,” she says. “I think that a semester will be a lot more supportive of a student’s academic and personal development.”

Seaver agrees, and she feels confident that the additional staff, along with the other support measures put in place, will help her and the entire advising team manage the extra workflow expected in the year ahead.

“There’s a lot of pressure knowing that we have to get it right, but I think there will be a huge reward when we get it done well and students have made that transition seamlessly.”

For more information and updates, go to the RIT semester conversion website: