During the before times, when Fulton’s hallways were buzzing with students, the doors to the Undergraduate Dean’s office were constantly swinging open as students dropped by to ask a quick question or connect with their advisors. As they started planning for a return to campus this fall, the academic advising team was concerned that, despite their fully revamped website, the shift to virtual appointment-based advising would mean sacrificing those brief but valuable connections with students. Cue the advising office’s latest innovation: “Fresh Air” advising!
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in late September, Academic Advisor Ally Galati unfurled a maroon tablecloth over a folding table and set up shop in front of Fulton Hall. “Fresh Air Academic Advising: Skip the Zoom and Ask us Here!” proclaimed a small sign on the table.
As the bell tower tolled to announce the hour and masked students flowed through Fulton’s doors to head to their next class, one broke away from the rush and made a beeline towards the table. After a quick exchange with Galati about course registration dates, he waved a socially distanced goodbye and headed off to his next class. Over the next two hours, students detoured towards the table to ask questions about selecting pass/fail, adding a class, declaring a concentration, and more. The next day would bring more of the same: Four days a week, two hours a day, academic advisors were stationed in front of Fulton Hall to answer questions and offer quick advising suggestions to students. They continued through September and October, before introducing drop-in Zoom hours.
“Outdoor advising gives students an opportunity to ask quick questions,” and safely provides the same casual environment of the indoor pre-pandemic drop-in hours, Galati notes. But, perhaps even more importantly, “It’s nice to be able to connect with students informally and be a presence for them.” In a time of social distancing, any opportunity to foster personal interaction has been invaluable. Carroll School advisors acknowledge that it’s hard to tell what the future will bring, but outdoor advising (enhanced this fall by a surfeit of spring-like days) might be here to stay.
Rather than slowing down during last spring’s shift to remote learning, the Carroll School’s undergraduate career advising team took the new virtual set-up as an opportunity to ramp up their offerings. From a video podcast series to a new website, the career advisors embraced the possibilities of remote engagement.
This fall, they’ve continued to expand their offerings to include virtual events with speakers calling in live from across the country and a robust YouTube channel with alumni video interviews and career tutorials. Handshake, their new online platform that serves as a hub for job opportunities, has also been an asset. The typical career advising offerings, including information sessions with companies and job-search related trainings, continue to be available to students this semester in a virtual format.
“It’s a weird job market right now,” says Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Advising Drew Barksdale, advising students who are currently in the job market to “continue to cast your net out wide, get in touch with people, and build relationships.” Current students can use Navigate, Boston College’s new Student Success platform, to make a virtual appointment with the career advisor.
Zoom’s newly ubiquitous presence in the workplace, classroom, and social spheres hasn’t been without its challenges, but for the Carroll School’s peer advisors, there are some silver linings. In previous years, the Carroll School’s undergraduate peer advisors were stationed in Fulton 315 and students would walk by the office and stop in to talk. These days, peer advising takes place in the Peer Advising Zoom Room, a virtual meeting space staffed by peer advisors. The weekly hours for the Zoom room are shared in the This Week in CSOM newsletter, and peer advisors log in during their assigned shifts to answer questions and hold virtual advising sessions.
Thanks to a few technological innovations, the new system has been working smoothly, says peer advisor Katarina Otruba ’21, who comes from Miami. In the old in-person advising format, advisors could see students waiting in line and wave them into the office one at a time. Now the students “line up” by announcing themselves in the Zoom chat and get admitted from the waiting room to meet individually with the advisors.
“In some ways the new Zoom room can be even more helpful and accessible,” says Otruba. “You don’t need to be near Fulton or even on campus to get advice.” The increased accessibility of virtual advising has allowed peer advisors to work with a range of students, including those who are fully remote for the semester. Students outside the Carroll School have also been making use of the Zoom room; when an MCAS student recently reached out personally to Katarina via LinkedIn to ask about Carroll School classes, she was able to direct them to the Zoom room to get their questions answered.