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"Degrees & Programs"

Academic counselors offer career support, from your first class to last job

By University of Phoenix
December 17, 2020 • 3 minute read

A student’s academic program is just one piece of a much bigger picture. It’s part of an ongoing education journey that goes beyond creating schedules and checking boxes on a degree plan. At University of Phoenix, academic counselors help students explore paths to a fulfilling and fitting career from the beginning. All along the way, the counselors serve as a touch point for resources and support to meet a student’s needs, whether it’s academic, informational or career readiness.

Angie Quinones, vice president of advisement and student solutions, said the counselor-student relationship begins within two weeks of enrollment and is nurtured throughout the student’s program until graduation. While students have a dedicated academic counselor, they also have access to any of the hundreds of UOPX counselors who are all well versed in serving students’ needs.

Quinones said it is all about providing support from your first class to your last job.

“At the beginning, we work with the student to tap into their motivation,” Quinones said. “Once we establish why they have chosen UOPX, we can begin to talk through the fundamentals of getting established and then work forward with skill building.”

Having career conversations

Academic counselors go into discussions with each student as a clean slate. No two experiences are alike, and no two paths will be exactly the same. Quinones said it all depends on the experiences students bring to the table and their purpose for taking courses.

Many first-time students need guidance on navigating coursework, interacting with faculty and taking online classes. From there, discussions may shift to self-reflection and identification of tools that will help students refine their academic plan to align with a career trajectory.

The discussions are interactive, she said. Academic counselors take their cues from the student.

“The resources we would recommend for a student who is an employed professional looking to make a career change may look different from the resources we recommend for a student who has little to no work experience and is looking for immediate employment opportunities,” Quinones said.

Juggling work, life and school

The University embraces both informational and formal engagement and conversations with students depending on their situation and needs. When students initiate a dialogue and request assistance, it is typically considered an informational conversation.

For example, students might call their academic counselor asking for help managing workload as they pursue a new job. The counselor reflects the information back to the student and asks questions to help identify possible internal or external barriers. The counselor can then suggest potential resources or support.

Conversations occur as the result of an internal alert that indicates a student may be at risk. For instance, if a student is not attending class or is struggling with coursework, an alert can be initiated to the student’s counselor, who will reach out to the student to talk through issues or challenges.

Both types of conversations are student-centric, with the counsleor encouraging the student to work together toward possible solutions or resources, Quinones said. While policies and procedures exist that guide interactions, counselors are there to assist students in a holistic way.

Quinones said if a student has a question, the counselor will answer it or find someone who can help.

“The counselors are mission-driven and student-first in their approach,” she said.

Support at every level

Kristen Griffin, vice president of student services, agreed that relationship-building rather than transactional interactions is of the utmost importance to let students know they are supported at every point along their path.

About three years ago, UOPX shifted to align with a predictive index and embrace a coaching experience as part of the counselor  interactions. As a result, the current staff represents a variety of backgrounds — social work, counseling and public education, for example — with experience as problem-solvers and a knack for thinking outside the box.

She said it was a purpose-driven decision made to support the University’s primarily working adult population.

“Because of this variety, our counselors come with a level of empathy and an increased ability to listen and create space for students to be who, what and how they need to be,” Griffin said. “You can’t get that randomly.”

Academic counselors are trained to handle career conversations to further help students in their journey. This will allow for additional conversations with students regarding their career needs so counselors can help identify potential resources to support them.

Quinones said that overall the goal of counselors is that students will be prepared beyond the classroom for what comes next after they have a diploma in their hand.

“We want students to be able to say, ‘I have the tools and resources to take the next step forward,’” she said.