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Advising Practicum: A Review

A motherly Westerbird nurtures fledg-ling first-years with knowledge and advice. IMAGE BY ERIK MAGNUSON

By Kelsey Rettke
STAFF WRITER

I stumbled out of bed this Wednesday for a 9 a.m. FYI meeting for the Advising Practicum, quite possibly the most publicized event on campus so far this semester. The Practicum promised first-years advice on “making it through the semester” and provided discussion of internships, graduate study and careers for upperclassmen.

What a day. Perhaps more busy (and maybe a little more overwhelming) than your average school day, the Advising Practicum began for me in the Center for Sciences with a discussion amongst my fellow FYI-ers. We pondered questions like, “What is a liberal arts education?” and “What makes Beloit a unique academic and social experience?”

The Advising Practicum hit on a key element that seems essential to students’ ability to learn and function at this college: advising itself. Here at Beloit I have already discovered that one of the most important factors in Beloit’s “liberal arts” education is the ability of the professors to communicate on a personal level with the students.

At 10:30 a.m. I attended “Why am I in college?” a session devoted to talking about the stress of a semester and the steps to avoiding a “sophomore slump,” as termed by seminar leaders Associate Professor and Department Chair of Phsycology Greg Buchanan and Executive Assistant to the College President Bill Flanagan.

Right off the bat, I was stubbornly quiet and refused to talk, thinking that this day was just going to be another sugarcoated event where the administrators would say how great Beloit was, and we would have to think about our future. But quickly I began giving my fullest attention to Buchanan and Flanagan as they laid out a helpful strategy to organize our time and manage our responsibilities.

They called it the “Helplessness v. Mastery” scenario. For example, if you put off doing homework until the last minute, you are setting yourself up for a helpless situation in which things can quickly spiral out of control. You can lose motivation, self-esteem can plummet and your overall interest in academics (and sometimes social life) can take a beating. But if you motivate yourself in, say, increments of 15 minutes, hopefully, at the end of the 15 minutes you will feel motivated enough to continue working. Little steps to ease you out of procrastinating are key. I came out of that session with a newly-acquired sense of confidence and motivation.

The next session, lead by Charles Westerberg, was very helpful for me. Seeing as I’m not too sure what academic path I want to take right now, I went in eager to hear how to narrow down my interests. He began by discussing how it’s not important to figure out what you want to do when you graduate in four years; what matters most right now is figuring out what you like. Also, just because you have declared a major does not mean that your entire life is now “set in stone.”

This was perhaps the most important piece of information I gained throughout the day. Sometimes I think it’s hard for people to remember how overwhelming it can feel to be a first-year in a new state, at college, taking on all individual responsibilities and being asked to think about life and “the future.” This day, to me, was most important because the professors, administrators, and people running the different sessions helped us all take a deep breath and relax.

We don’t have to think about what to do with the rest of our lives right now, or even what we want to major in exactly. At the afternoon sessions not only was there food, but the professors within departments were willing to talk to first-years and help them discover their interests.

I believe the Advising Practicum was a success on so many levels because it didn’t leave out any students. It was informational and helpful for all students, no matter their graduating year.

There really is a benefit of having a liberal arts education, and that is what the Advising Practicum tried to underline. Professors really do care about the students here and are more than ready and willing to offer advice and listen to questions. Students are a priority here, and I feel like my interests really matter in the whole grand scheme of things at college.

The great thing is, all the sessions throughout the day explained and proved that a liberal arts degree,  and indeed a liberal arts education experience, can prepare you for post-graduation. There are job opportunities, internships, and graduate school options out there. The Advising Practicum was designed to prepare, inspire, equip, ready and inform. For me it did.

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