Supporting Students as One Team in One Location
Posted on October 28, 2020 by Amber Day
Any question, big or small, staff in the University of South Alabama College of Education and Professional Studies Office of Student Services and the Advising Center are here to help. Current, returning and prospective students can schedule appointments throughout the year.
During the past summer, Student Services, which maintains student academic records, relocated to share the same office suite as the college’s Advising Center. The Office of Field Services, which administers the placements of clinical field experiences for graduate and undergraduate candidates, is now located in Student Services' old office, in the lobby at the main entrance of the college’s building.
“No one likes having their call transferred from office to office or arriving at an office and then learning they are in the wrong place,” said Josh Wooden, who is now serving as executive director of Student Services for the College of Education and Professional Studies. “Having the Advising Center and Student Services in the same space makes the experience more efficient for our students. In addition, the staff in each of these offices brings a wealth of knowledge that will create a tremendous resource in one location, not only for our students, but also for other staff and faculty in our college.
The two offices now working as a team in one space will provide academic advising and serve as the hub for processing academic requests for the college. These requests include grade replacements, transient requests, change of major, graduation applications, credit modification/substitution, TEACH grants, VA benefits verification, candidacy applications and all requests related to teacher certification. In short, if a student has questions and does not know where to go, the staff can help.
Wooden has worked at the College of Education and Professional Studies for more than nine years. Most recently, he served as supervisor of the Advising Center, and while in that position, became the certification officer for the college.
“Education is powerful and transformational for individuals and communities,” Wooden said. “Throughout my career in higher education, I have had the privilege of witnessing this firsthand. South is committed to helping our students succeed, and I am proud to contribute to that mission.”
During Wooden’s time at South, the Advising Center shifted from operating as a reactionary unit to a proactive unit.
“Before, the Advising Center waited for students to initiate contact, and now we conduct numerous outreach campaigns each semester,” Wooden said. “This is largely aided by the purchase of new technology by the University that allows for digital notes, online appointment scheduling and campaign coordination.
In addition to the changes in technology and outreach, the Advising Center also facilitated the creation of four-year graduation plans for all CEPS majors. “In each appointment, students now work with their advisor to create an academic plan that outlines all remaining classes and in which semester they plan to take them,” Wooden said. “In correlation with these improvements, we have seen an increase in the number of students returning each semester and an increase in the number of students graduating.”
The pandemic and subsequent shift to online operations caused the two offices to evaluate and revise many forms, applications and processes. Their goal will be to continue exploring how to provide services more efficiently and be more accessible for students.
Meet the employees from the Advising Center and Student Services below.
Diane Harvey, Academic Advisor
12 Years of Service at South
Advises: Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Interdisciplinary Studies
Why are you passionate about serving students? I returned to school after many years not knowing if I could make it or not. But, I proved to myself I could! Earning my degrees gave me a sense of pride and confidence. This is what motivates me to give back to my students. I feel that I am my students' cheerleader and guide.
What is your goal for this year as we continue to look at the future? My goals this year are to learn how to listen and relate to my students more effectively and continue to improve my technology skills.
Fun fact: I enjoy traveling, gardening and watching movies!
Jamie Lett, Graduate Academic Records Specialist
27 Years of Service at South
Why are you passionate about serving students? I very much enjoy helping students reach their goals.
What is your goal for this year? Admit more and more students each semester!
For a new student at South, how would you explain what your area has to offer? If I do not know the answer, I can find the answer to any problem!
Fun fact: I play tennis on several local teams and enjoy it very much.
Jennifer Fillingim, Credentials and Degree Analyst I
13 Years of Service at South
Over the past several years, how have you seen your area evolve and improve? I've enjoyed working in Student Services mainly because of the great group of people I work with. We all seem to have a common goal to be effective in helping students succeed.
Why are you excited about the advising center and student services working more closely as a team? I'm hopeful that in combining our two departments we will be able to continue to provide a place where students know they can come for accurate answers and information. If we don't know the answer, we will point them in the right direction.
Fun fact: I enjoy gardening, mostly flowers, and yard work, especially in these last few months. I also love to read, knit and sew. I have made over 100 masks and mailed them to family and friends in North and South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana.
Kathy Beck, Academic Records Supervisor
32 Years of Service at South
Why are you passionate about serving students? It is exciting to work in a university setting and see students be educated to become the employee/employers of the future, who will serve productively for the benefit of their families, our community, our nation and globally.
How would you explain what your office has to offer? A place where students can get answers, to help them navigate through their curriculum successfully, and where they can find out the “how tos” during their college years.
Fun fact: I love any projects around the house, especially chalk painting furniture.
Pamela James, Academic Advisor
23 Years of Service at South
Advises: K-6 Teacher Education, Secondary Education, Special Education, Early Childhood Studies, Educational Studies
Over the past several years, how have you seen your area evolve and improve? I've seen more recognition in the importance of how academic advising provides the required student support and how that support impacts students' academic success.
What is your goal for this year? The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely required adjustments to how academic advising is conducted. So, the goal for the future would have to include improving and utilizing more virtually technological approaches to academic advising to continue meeting the needs of our students.
Fun fact: I enjoy vacationing with my family in the happiest place on earth.
Sally Morris, Academic Advising Coordinator
Nine Years of Service at South
Advises: Exercise Science, Health Education, Health (Non-Teaching), Physical Education, Sport and Recreation Management, Therapeutic Recreation
Why are you passionate about serving students? My positive experiences with staff at South as an undergraduate student ultimately led me to want to work in higher education, but it’s the students I serve now that keep me.
For a new student at South, how would you explain what your area has to offer? If a student doesn’t know when to register for classes, how to approach a professor, or why they are in a particular course, we are here to help.
Fun fact: I enjoy travelling and spending time with my family.
Stephanie Darst, Academic Records Specialist
Seven Years of Service at South
Why are you passionate about serving students? They are the future.
Why are you excited about the advising center and student services working more closely as a team, and how will this benefit students? We are a one stop office for student information. Students receive information from advisors at the front end of their academic career, and Student Services provides information about graduation and teacher certification at the end of their time here.
Fun fact: I enjoy gardening and keeping chickens.