By Troy Osenkarski, B.A. in English Language and Literature Student
Five Questions is a regular feature in which we interview a College of Online and Continuing Education staff member. For this issue we talked with Jack Lewandowski, assistant vice president of Academic Advising.
Why did you become an advisor?
I had an advisor who would just sign off on my classes, as long as they pertained to my degree. They were unsupportive and I was left directionless. They didn’t ask the life questions every student needs to be asked. I wanted to ensure other students had the opportunity to discuss anything and everything related to their education with me. They need to make their own choices, but I wanted to be their guide and provide them with a better experience than my own.
How does your work impact student success?
Everything we do focuses on student success. We work with students as early as seven weeks prior to their first course in order to build relationships with those in our care and make certain we have a stake in their ability to succeed. Students who feel unsupported and alone have a much higher probability of failure than those who have a team in their corner. We impact student success by removing any and all potential barriers outside of the classroom that may impact a student’s ability to be successful. Because of this notion, we largely refer to ourselves as “Sherpas.” We will guide, carry baggage and lead the way if you are willing to walk alongside us and take each step toward the top of the mountain.
How should advisors help students advance toward their goals in their chosen professions?
It helps if we start early on in the student’s program, if we can learn about the student, who they are, who they want to become, what obstacles they believe will hinder their ability to be successful. Are they using this degree for advancement? A career change? Are they doing this for themselves or to set an example for their children? Most of the time that chosen profession is in fact their final goal after completing a degree program. If that is their goal, then it is our goal as well. Someone who is here to prove to their kids that higher education is important will have very different conversations with us than someone who is trying to receive a promotion. We need to pay attention to these details and decide if we need to bring in resources like Career Services, for example, in order to even further identify how we can be of assistance. Every student requires a different conversation.
As an advisor, how do you balance assisting students with the goal to help them become independent learners?
When (undergraduate) students begin their education with SNHU, they are assigned a New Student Advisor who will guide them through their first three terms, making them more effective and efficient in their studies. Week after week, term after term, the advisor helps the student understand what it takes to become a self-sufficient and successful student. After the first three terms are completed, they are transitioned to a program advisor who focuses on program-specific courses and assisting students as they move closer to graduation.
What makes SNHU special?
Everyone’s focus here is on the student. Everyone realizes how they have some level of impact on students’ success. Everyone is willing to eliminate the obstacles that arise, help with study plans and find the appropriate channels for their questions. We are all invested in student success first and foremost. We measure our success by the success of the individual student.