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Stephanie Morawo is part of an Undergraduate Academic Advising team that created new ways to guide students in 2020.
"Many times when students have a problem, whether it's academic or personal, they will come to us first because we've built that relationship. We're that frontline to get them the help they need in whatever capacity that is." — Stephanie Morawo, Advisor, Harbert College of Business
Stephanie Morawo advises more than 600 marketing majors in the Harbert College of Business. COVID-19, however, not only changed the way students are educated, it changed the way they are advised. Morawo and the team of advisors in the college’s Office of Undergraduate Academic Advising worked feverishly to create new ways to reach Harbert students – and continue to serve them through the pandemic. Morawo said she didn’t choose this career path, instead, “It chose me.”
How does your office continue to meet the needs of students in today’s remote, COVID environment?
Morawo: Everything happened really quickly. We had to overhaul all of our processes into items that would be usable in the remote/distance environment. We created multiple new student training tools such as videos and advising links that were necessary in lieu of our usual in-person programs. We emailed links and videos to students so they could learn the material anytime they choose. We also worked diligently to provide more academic and health resources since they weren’t able to physically visit our office. We still have appointments like we always have, but they are on Zoom instead of in-person. We’ve been Zooming a lot.
What happens in these appointments?
Morawo: The biggest question students ask is, ‘When am I graduating?’ ‘How many hours do I have left?’ ‘When and how can I declare my major?’ We help students create a plan of study, discuss their current schedule and how their plan relates to their degree program. We walk through that so they understand what the classes are and what the requirements are.
Another thing we talk about with our declared students is internships. Students often have questions about how that process works. We talk about the college’s program champions and how they can partner with them to help them find an internship, help them apply and get ready for interviews. If they're closer to graduation, they'll have questions about graduate school or where they are in the job process. We'll also talk about their involvement. ‘Are you involved?’ ‘Are you in any student organizations?’ ‘Are you doing community service work?’ ‘Have you been to the career fair?’
Lately, we've talked a lot about mental health. I have always asked them how they were doing, but now I do a more extensive check-in since we've been in the pandemic. We will discuss tips and tricks for online learning and online testing. I also ask them how they are doing emotionally. ‘Are you getting out of the house?’ ‘Are you taking a walk?’ ‘Are you doing self-care?’ I spend about 10 minutes of the first part of my appointment just doing a self-care check, making sure they're feeling OK academically, they know resources for tutoring, academic coaching, and counseling are available.
Stephanie Morawo said one of the most rewarding aspects of her job was watching a student grow and develop, from freshman year to graduation.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Morawo: When I'm able to help them in any way. Obviously, we help students every day, but when they don't feel like they know something and we're able to assist, that is rewarding. Then also seeing students I’ve had from beginning to end graduate. To see their journey and then to help them because there's so many things they do need help with, or they may not know. Being that resource for them is really rewarding.
Is there anything about the advising office that maybe people don't understand?
Morawo: I think that people probably don't understand that we do a lot more than just tell students what classes to take. Obviously that's a large component and we guide them on their academic path and we do sign off and say, ‘Yes, you can graduate.’
Despite the restrictions of COVID-19, Stephanie Morawo and Harbert College advisors continued to meet students' needs, often utilizing Zoom for one-on-one advising sessions.
There's a relationship there that we have with the students. We're the boots on the ground -- their first line of defense. They come to us for everything -- absolutely everything. We have a bank of knowledge regarding all things on campus so that we can direct them to whoever can help with whatever their needs may be, whether that's student counseling services, or financial aid. We also do a lot of behind that scenes work and planning for our students that they don’t even see. All of the advising staff, from the director to the advisors to the support staff, have been averaging 10-12 hour days (and more during registration!) to make sure our students are cared for.
Many times when students have a problem, whether it's academic or personal, they will come to us first because we've built that relationship. We're that frontline to get them the help they need in whatever capacity that is.
What sets our students apart from others?
Morawo: Business students are really driven. Our students are always looking at the bigger picture and driven to do the next thing. Obviously the classes are important and they want to come in and they want to know what classes they need to take in all of that. But they're always asking me, ‘What can I do? What student organization can I be a part of that's going to help me further my career.’
Harbert College students are already thinking of careers even though they're just starting out. Knowing that, all these little things they're doing now are going to build and prepare them for their futures. They want their futures to be so great and so wonderful. They want to do everything right. They want to have all their ducks in a row, and to be able to stand out.