Leaders of the PAC – The Pioneer Advising Center Team Eases the College Transition
By Baker Maultsby
This article appeared originally in the Fall 2019 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
For Kathleen Crozier, “seeing young people set goals and accomplish them is very rewarding.”
That’s why she enjoys her work as a staff member with the Pioneer Advising Center, or PAC, which began advising students in the spring of 2019. The four-person team, under the direction of Associate Provost for Academic Programs Kathleen Brown, works to make the advising process a learning opportunity while encouraging students to take ownership of their educational decision-making.
Meanwhile, the PAC’s advising model calls for faculty members to play a key role in mentoring students as they set goals and make plans.
The idea, says Brown, is “to help students with their critical thinking skills while they make the transition from the high school mindset to the college culture. It can be quite a shift in thinking for many students.”
There is plentiful research indicating that academic advising programs can be critical to college retention rates and to students’ overall level of accomplishment. To be successful, students must know how to navigate college, and that’s what makes the PAC so important at SMC.
Brown says the concept for the PAC grew out of SMC’s reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The organization requires colleges to create a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) during the reaccreditation process that takes place each 10 years. Following a process that included town hall meetings, surveys, and brainstorming sessions, SMC chose academic advising as its QEP.
The advising program is now an integral part of the student experience at SMC. “All new students are assigned a PAC Adviser,” Brown explains. “The PAC Adviser meets with the student before classes begin to discuss his or her interests and goals. Together, they choose the degree the student will pursue at SMC. The PAC Adviser explains the course requirements for the degree and assists the student in planning out a path to complete the degree.”
In students’ second semester, they begin to work with a faculty mentor in their chosen field. The professor will provide insight on academic and career opportunities in their field and help students with setting goals and selecting courses to help them meet their goals.
Both PAC advisers and professors enjoy the program, Brown says. “It’s gratifying to work with students one-on-one, instructing them on how college degrees work and what the requirements are to be successful.”
Crozier adds, “I love that from the first time we meet with students, they know that we are there to help them throughout their college career. Academic advisers always have the students’ best interest in mind, and students know they can come to us and find the help they need.”
While the program emphasizes discussion and collaboration between students, PAC advisers, and professors, logistical support is also provided. Advisers keep track of students’ records and help them with the ins and outs of registering for classes. They also assist students in hammering out a course schedule that’s free of conflicts — an important service for those who play on sports teams or who work part time.
Still, says Crozier, the PAC model is centered on building strong connections. “As relationships are formed, students know they can come to us with any issue and we will find a solution for them.”