Resources at the Ready
Providing resources students need to succeed—academically and beyond
How does the VCU College of Humanities help more than 10,000 undergraduate students navigate individual curriculum choices, course registration and special degree requirements? The answer is the College’s Office of Student Services, a dedicated team of 30 advisers and administrative staff that do everything from connecting students to campus resources and providing counsel on selecting courses to finding a faculty mentor or landing a special internship. Alaina Campbell, director of science advising, and Juliana Rasnic, director of humanities and social sciences advising, lead the group with a combined 19 years’ experience. Day-to-day, they help resolve complex graduation issues, assist students in personal or academic crises, connect students to financial aid resources and facilitate new adviser training.
“I always tell students that if they have a question their adviser is a good place to start as they either will know the answer or will likely know where to direct them if they don’t,” says Campbell. Advisers are also often the first point of contact students make when working through a big decision or facing a crisis. “Our advisers do amazing work and often go above and beyond expectations. They care about their students and take pride in the wealth of knowledge and skills they have,” she says.
"We are all committed to meeting our students where they are and helping them create a plan to get to their vision of a better future."
When the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted the student experience, advising staff acted as a bridge between students and the university to keep their progress toward graduation on track. While the environment in which advisers worked with students changed from in-person to online, the work did not. “Thankfully, we had already moved a number of processes online to streamline them and most of our advisers had some experience with advising students virtually. It was a team effort in advising and student services to make these changes and make sure our students received the help they needed,” says Campbell.
Still, students were facing new or steeper challenges and so advisers shifted their support and services to meet the need. Some students reported struggling with online learning, while others faced housing and financial insecurity, serious illness or new caregiving responsibilities. “[The pandemic] re-enforced what we already knew—that we have a very diverse student population with different stories and different needs that we need to do our best to serve. But [it reinforced] also how important being VCU students is to them and completing their degree. They faced, and continue to face, many challenges but are persevering,” says Campbell.
Students took advantage of all of the resources that the College advising team offered and it showed—since the beginning of the pandemic, advisers reported having greater contact with a larger percentage of the student population than in past years. “We love our students and we are happy to support them in any capacity that we can—as advocates, as resources, as cheerleaders, and as sounding boards,” says Rasnic. “We are all committed to meeting our students where they are and helping them create a plan to get to their vision of a better future.”