October 30, 2019

Academic advisors step out of the office to help students, community

On Sept. 19, more than 90 academic advisors participated in on-campus service projects that directly served students. Advisors stocked shelves at The W Food Pantry, organized clothes at the Warrior Wardrobe, and more.

Earlier this year, a group of Wayne State University academic advisors got together with a goal to further help the students they serve. But this idea extended beyond the usual office hours and guiding students through their majors.

“Academic advisors expressed an interest in being more involved in the campus community, and Detroit at large,” said Harman Singh, an academic advisor at the Department of Psychology. “They were looking for an opportunity for us to be here for our students in a different way — outside of advising them — and be more involved in the community.”

Singh

In response, Wayne State’s Academic Advising Council created the Advisor Community Service Committee to identify and organize opportunities for academic services officers and advisors to volunteer as a group. The committee is co-chaired by Singh and Shawntae Harris Mintline, an academic advisor in the College of Education. Singh, who came to Wayne State in fall 2018, said the committee was formed to create a more formalized process that advisors could use to curate and develop opportunities to be involved not only in one-off volunteering situations, but also in long-term opportunities.

On Sept. 19, the goal became a reality after more than 90 academic advisors participated in on-campus service projects that directly served Wayne State students. Advisors stocked shelves at The W Food Pantry, organized clothes at the Warrior Wardrobe, created care packages with the CHAMPS Program, read to children at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute’s Early Childhood Center and more. The Academic Advising Summit Service Project allowed for advisors to familiarize themselves with on-campus resources for students in a fun and innovative way, Singh said, while also serving the students they work with every day.

The Academic Advising Summit Service Project allowed for advisors to familiarize themselves with on-campus resources for students in a fun and innovative way, while also serving the students they work with every day.

“This was an opportunity for our advisors to go out and meet with different departments and organizations, to learn how they’re giving back to the students. Oftentimes, we’re referring students to these services,” Singh said. “We were able to see the spaces, talk with people in charge about their experiences and learn how we can help our students use their resources. It was a great way to give back and do something positive for those departments and organizations.”

Prior to the service project, each volunteer site gave a short presentation to advisors and answered questions related to the services they offer on campus. At the end of the day, the advisors regrouped to discuss the services and the ways in which they can give back to the campus community. A short reflection was led by Anna-Maria Flores, Ph.D., manager of Community Engagement@Wayne.

“Before we did this, we had some discussions with Community Engagement@Wayne on what else the campus community is doing, along with ways we can get involved, track our success and [see] how we’re impacting the community,” Singh said. “Dr. Flores has been very helpful with offering her expertise.”

In the coming months, the Advisor Community Service Committee will partner with Playworks Michigan to help give Detroit schools a makeover and Gleaners Community Food Bank to package food for the local community.

“The advisors were very happy with their experiences helping in September and definitely want to continue to be involved. That was one of the goals,” Singh said. “Another goal is to get our advisors to be more involved not only on the ground level, but also on boards of nonprofits. We really want to build our connections with local organizations.”