Peer advising program unique to VSB

Vin Distasio

As registration time arrives and students look for guidance in scheduling their future courses, the Villanova School of Business and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences offer different advising techniques to their students. 

In addition, a new scheduling program created by a Villanova graduate may solve many registration woes on campus.

Arts and Sciences utilizes only faculty advisers in preparing students for registration, while VSB gives the student the choice of meeting with a department adviser or a peer adviser.

“At VSB, we take more of a team approach,” said Ellenbeth Pepe, associate director of the Clay Center. “The peer advisers work with the Clay Center advisers, who then work with the faculty advisers. We give our students various resources when seeking advising. If they aren’t comfortable talking to us, perhaps they feel better talking to one of their peers. Giving them the student perspective adds to the richness of the advising experience.”

Currently, the College of Arts & Sciences does not utilize peer advisers, opting to focus more on an experiential process through which the early years are marked more by experimentation than goal-orientation.

“In the College of Arts & Sciences, all incoming arts students are classified as undeclared arts for their first three semesters,” said Trudi Tedjeske, the assistant dean for undergraduate students. “During this time, they have the opportunity to take classes outside of the realm of what would be covered in a typical high school curriculum in order to discover what they are interested in. They work with their faculty adviser to answer questions such as, ‘What are the experiences that I want in the College of Arts & Sciences?’ and ‘What classes am I going to look forward to attending three or four times a week?'”

Both departments stress that their advising offices do more than simply tell students what classes to take in order to graduate. 

Both schools provide resources that aid students in career advising, personal development, professional development and experiential development.

“When a student enters our program, it is a Clay Center adviser’s responsibility to ensure that the student is taking the appropriate courses, meeting with an adviser on a regular basis, adjusting to college life effectively and getting ready for his or her sophomore year,” Pepe said, reinforcing the fact that advisers are meant to provide guidance and assistance, not simply answers. “At the same time, we expect students to be prepared when coming to meet with an adviser, having done his or her homework, because there is no exact formula for determining what classes any one student should take and what decisions any one student should make.”

“The Arts and Sciences department houses a large number of undeclared students,” Tedjeske said. “Statistics shows that 75 to 80 percent of college students change their major at least once, so we advise them to take classes they’ve never had and receive exposure to those fields.”

Although the College of Arts & Sciences does not plan to instate a program featuring peer advisers in the near future, according to Tedjeske, they have been researching and talking with VSB in hopes of creating a program where students can have access to the knowledge and experience of their peers, similar to the current VSB program.

“I think having student advisers is great,” said Anthony White, a junior management information systems major in the School of Business. “If you are a person who is more comfortable talking to your peers and want an upfront assessment of certain classes and what to take going forward, meeting with a peer would be your best option. If you prefer the expertise that a teacher provides and believe that your case can’t be handled by the typical peer adviser, you also have the option to speak to your faculty adviser. Giving the students options is the primary reason that VSB’s advising technique is ideal.”

Other students, however, do not find the addition of student advisers necessary.

“I am a strong supporter of the College of Arts & Sciences’ current advising technique,” said Kaitlin Chupka, a junior environmental science major. “The faculty has a level of expertise that no student adviser can compete with. Putting a student with only one peer adviser makes the information that that particular student receives very biased and often unreliable. The teachers at Villanova truly are experts in their fields, and I believe having them advise their students is an excellent way to further utilize their talents.”

A new program spreading across campus may render this comparison unnecessary, however. 

The program, known as Schedulr, aggregates all registration information into one interface and allows the student to work with an interactive schedule. 

Created by AJ Palkovic, a computer science major and a graduate of the Class of 2010, the program contains an updated course list that is also found on Novasis, with full descriptions of each class.

According to Palkovic, Schedulr eliminates the waiting time experienced on Novasis by preloading the course information, in its entirety, from Novasis before beginning. 

This way, it operates only within the browser and does not require waiting for the server to access Novasis. 

Palkovic said he wanted to create a program that was fast, easy to work with and could provide a stronger visual for one’s proposed schedule.

“On Novasis, once you find a course, you need to open Excel or find a napkin to scratch down the CRN number,” Palkovic said. “Schedulr provides a way to instantly see how your courses will be laid out. It provides very quick access to all the CRN numbers for a course when registration time does come around. It automatically checks for conflicts between your courses in a schedule. It allows you to create different schedules in case some of your courses filled up. It updates you in real time as the courses you want to register for fill up.”

If used correctly, Schedulr could provide a helpful tool not only for students, but also for advisers to use in conjunction with students. 

It allows student to see what courses a particular department is offering in a given semester as well as which ones fit optimally together in a schedule. 

When asked about the future of Schedulr, Palkovic said there will “probably not” be any further plans to improve and spread the use of Schedulr throughout campus. 

He also says that UNIT was not responsive to his program and does not expect the school to sponsor and support it anytime soon. 

He is, however, proud of his creation and believes it is fully functional as is.

“Schedulr has most of the features that I wanted to do when I began this project,” he said. “There are definitely other things that could be done, but I probably won’t be doing them.”