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Harpur Advising

Harpur Academic Advising helps develop students

by Alexandra Wolkoff

The Harpur College Academic Advising Office works to turn the freedom of the liberal arts into a great opportunity for every student.

“Harpur students aren’t pigeon-holed,” said Kathy Brunt, assistant dean for academic affairs. “If you’re OK with not having everything laid out, you can really create a unique and different path for yourself.”

Led by director Lawrence Greenfield, the office houses general advisors who focus on the overall development of a student’s experience. Each student also has an advisor within his or her major who specializes in the requirements of that particular department.

Greenfield’s office supports seven general advisors, in addition to three administrative assistants who also do basic advising. “We have a very experienced staff,” he said. “Together, we have upwards of 75 years of total advising experience, probably closer to 100.”

Greenfield said that his staff takes a developmental approach to advising: “We understand that people change over time, that students change over time, and our goal is to facilitate that growth and change.”

The office provides students with the guidance and support to explore a variety of opportunities, encouraging experimentation, Greenfield said.

“The term ‘undecided’ for us has given way to the term ‘exploring,’” he said. “We don’t expect a student to walk in the door and know what they’re going to do. How could they? They don’t know where their own academic strengths and interests lie yet.”

In supporting a student’s academic journey, the office focuses its efforts on degree planning.

“We recognize that a major and a career are not the same thing. And a major and a degree are not the same thing,” Greenfield said. Because of this, Harpur advisors view a degree as a construct and works to help students build one that truly reflects their individual interests and aspirations at each step in their studies.

“One of the things I like about Harpur and I like about Binghamton is that our requirements are such that there is lots of room for students to build something that is unique to that student,” Greenfield said.

First, Harpur advisors encourage students to choose a major based purely on interest and only then start discussing career possibilities. Greenfield samples these questions as “What can I do with a major in history? What can I do with a major in English? What can I do with a major in physics or studio art?”

The advising staff works to help students understand that majors in the arts and sciences are skills-oriented — skills that they can apply widely to many fields.

“We want our students to realize that they are learning how to think analytically, critically, creatively, logically,” Greenfield said.

The office runs a popular series of outreach programs titled “Liberal Arts To …” for which the staff has created presentations dealing with major areas of employment. Some of the programs include “Liberal Arts to Business,” “Liberal Arts to Public Service” and “Liberal Arts to Communication.” For example, the “Liberal Arts to Public Health” presentation caters to those who did not enjoy the prerequisite courses for medical school but who still want to work in the health field. These programs always draw a crowd, said Ashley Serbonich, a general advisor and coordinator of outreach efforts, estimating that they were attended by around 500 students in the spring semester and close to 1,000 in the fall.

Greenfield said that his staff also encourages students to explore opportunities outside of campus: “We understand the value of experiential learning. We want our students to be out in the world, networking, and taking their learning back in to the classroom.”

Greenfield’s office also houses the pre-health and pre-law advisors who coordinate a number of externships: “We have something called the Physicians Mentor Program that enables pre-health students to shadow health professionals,” he said.

To facilitate this support system, Harpur Advising works with other campus resources.

“One of their strengths is the partnering with so many different offices: Alumni Relations, the Career Development Center, as well as the academic departments themselves,” Brunt said.

Harpur academic advisors continually ask themselves: “Is there something we can do better?”

“We really work hard here to communicate to students that this is a safe place for them to come and share their goals and their aspirations, to share with us the challenges they may be facing,” Greenfield said. “We want to help them get the most they can out of being a Harpur student and a Binghamton student and to really build something that reflects their personal, academic, and career goals.”

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Last Updated: 12/10/14