#104 – Meet the Team: Student Support Roles

In this episode we’re “meeting the team” in two different ways. We introduce you to our new College Parent Central podcasting team as we are joined by new cohosts Elizabeth Hamblet and Sarah Shane, and we also reintroduce Vicki Nelson and Lynn Abrahams for new listeners. But we’re also talking about the team of people at most colleges who are there to support your student. With so many different support roles it’s easy to wonder who does what. We discuss the differences between academic advisors, success coordinators, tutors, disability services and learning disabilities developmental programs. We also break down how all of these roles differ from your student’s high school guidance counselor. This conversation will help you guide your student toward the college supports they need.

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We were excited in this episode to have our new podcast team all together. We’re introducing Elizabeth Hamblet and Sarah Shane, our newest members, and taking a few minutes to re-introduce Lynn Abrahams and Vicki Nelson to those of you who may be new listeners.

Each of us on the team has a different role in working to support students and we’re taking some time to describe that role.

We know that it can sometimes be difficult to sort out all of the different support roles in college and how they differ from those support people in high school. We hope that describing what we do will reassure you that there is a team of support for your student and help you understand how each person can provide support.

If your student is already in or starting college, we hope this information will help you talk to your student about the support they have available and how to make the most of it. If your student is still looking at schools, this information may help them ask the right questions and make decisions about what school best provides the supports they need.

Lynn also talked about how different her feelings are as she works professionally with students and those feelings she had as a parent. Trying to step back and look more objectively about what they need is often difficult.

We hope this episode not only introduces you to each of us, but also helps you think about the team of supports your student needs and has available.

If you’d like to follow up on some of the topics we mentioned, here are a few articles and earlier episodes that might be helpful:

Help Your Student Get Started Talking to Professors

What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student

#083 – Why Are Students Reluctant to Connect with Professors?

#102 – Helping Students Develop Relationships with Professors Beyond the Classroom

Managing Time, Managing Self: College Freshman Challenge

Who Is Advising My Student About Academic Issues?

Making the Shift from High School to College When Your Student Has Learning Differences

If you’d like to follow up on some of the information that Elizabeth discussed, you’ll find lots more information in her book, Seven Steps to College Success: A Pathway for Students with Disabilities.

Here are a few more helpful resources from Elizabeth:

How to Research College Disability Accommodations and Other Academic Supports – written version. And here’s the video version.

College Disability Services Research Form

Who Does or Doesn’t Benefit From Fee-Based College Disability Programs?

What Fee-Based College Disability Programs Do and Don’t Offer

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AND – beginning with this episode, we are trying to supply a transcript of each episode. If you don’t have time or ability to listen to the episode, we hope the transcript will help you find the information you need.

Transcript of this Episode

Announcement 00:10

Welcome to the College Parent Central Podcast. Whether your child is just beginning the college admission process or is already in college, this podcast is for you. You’ll find food for thought and information about college and about navigating that delicate balance of guidance, involvement and knowing when to get out of the way. Join your hosts as they share support and a celebration of the amazing experience of having a child in college.

Vicki Nelson – Host 00:45

Welcome back to the College Parent Central Podcast. We are here with Season 5 of the podcast that talks all about anything that has to do with being the parent of a college student, a student who is thinking about college and getting ready for college, and sometimes students who’ve graduated from college and are setting out on the world. We like to talk about all of those things. I am here, my name is Vicki Nelson and I am a faculty member in a small liberal arts college. I’m also the parent of three daughters. I am not here by myself. I have been here for four seasons with my co-host, Lynn Abrahams, and she’s going to introduce herself in a few minutes. We are here with our two new co-hosts as well. We have doubled the size of our team. There are four of us all here together on the same call and recording the same podcast, and that’s very exciting for us. What we’re going to do in this episode is allow our new co-hosts to introduce themselves. Lynn and I will reintroduce ourselves as well, because we know that there are some people who are just joining us and may not be as familiar with who we are. As we’re doing that, what we want to talk about in this episode is our roles of what we do in working with college students, because we all have slightly different roles in working with students. There are a lot of new things often for students and parents to try to make sense of and sort out when a student goes to college, because you do hear about all of these different roles and students are very often used to working with their high school guidance counselor. Now a lot of the things that that guidance counselor or some of the support services in high school have done have been spread out over a lot of different roles. We’re going to talk about who we are, what we do and how they’re a little different from each other and how they’re different from high school.

 

Just to set the stage here and get us ready, we are going to be hearing from Lynn Abrahams, who’s been co-host for a while and she works in a special program for students with learning differences. She’s going to talk about what she does in that sense. Elizabeth Hamblet, one of our new co-hosts, is a consultant and she also works as a learning specialist in a disability services office, so that’s a very different role, but also working often with students with learning differences, and she’s also the author of a book about all of that and I hope she’s going to talk about that. And we’re also joined by Sarah Shane, who is the Director of Academic Advising and Academic Success at a small liberal arts college that happens to be the same one where Lynn and I work and so she’s going to talk a little bit about the advising services and also student success and who the people are potentially that might be working with your student in that way, and then I can talk a little bit about being a faculty member and also an academic advisor. So we hope you hang around and listen to all the different things.

 

Lynn, alphabetically, you get to start.

Lynn Abrahams – Host 04:39

I’ve never liked having a last name start with A. I have to tell you.

 

Okay, well, I am Lynn Abrahams and I am thrilled to be here and I’ve been with Vicki for the last four years, which I can’t believe it’s been that long that we’ve been doing this. And I’m thrilled to be here for our fifth year and I’m thrilled to have two other people with us. We all bring a different view to working with students. So, as Vicki mentioned, I work in a four year liberal arts college in a special program to support students with learning disabilities. I have been in this program for many, many years and in my role I do work with parents and I work with families, and one thing I want to just mention is that the role that I play in a college level is very different than a learning disability specialist in a high school, in that the college rules are different. So when I support my college students, they are really in the driver’s seat and it’s not the parents who are in the driver’s seat. So I do have a lot of conversations with parents about that shift in role and I find that, you know, parents are really open to wanting to learn about what that difference is.

06:20

I know when my I have two sons who went to college and when they started college, I also was at a little bit of a loss in terms of the shift from high school to college. In fact, that’s how Vicki and I started this whole thing, because we were having conversations with each other about that shift from the parent role. Our heads were spinning and we work in higher ed. So in my role in working with college students, I do, you know, talk with parents about that shift. That said, my work with students is between me and the student. That’s the other piece that’s different. I don’t necessarily fill in parents on everything we’re doing, because my job is to work with the students, and in a high school setting, I think parents have more contact with the learning disability teacher or the resource room teacher than they would with me. So you know, there’s some real differences between high school and college in working with students with learning disabilities.

Vicki Nelson-Host 07:40

So, Lynn, because I know we have often talked about it, and you are very quick to say I’m not a tutor, I don’t tutor students. So sometimes it seems mysterious to me then what you do do.

Lynn Abrahams-Host 08:01

So, first of all, a tutor works with the content material, so we have places where our students can go and get help specifically with a class or writing or math. That’s very different. What I do is work with the student around learning issues. How do they learn, how do they take in information in their brains, how do they express information out to the teachers and to others? So what I do is talk more about learning approaches, learning style, learning. You know how that process. I don’t talk about content. I don’t talk about chemistry, you know, but I do talk about how they approach the chemistry textbook. That’s the difference. Does that make sense?

Vicki Nelson – Host

Yeah, it does and I think you know as a faculty member in the same institution where you work. I think sometimes we forget that and we think you know that you are helping them write that essay and you are helping them.

Lynn Abrahams-Host 09:07

You know, no, what I’m doing is asking students how they approach writing an essay. What’s gotten them into trouble in the past? What would work in a college level essay versus a high school? You know paper, so it gets pretty nitty gritty in terms of how they approach their work and how they can be better students.

Vicki Nelson-Host 09:30

The goal is to have them be successful college students and, as I’m always saying when we talk about these things, you know that’s the goal for every student, whether they have learning disabilities or not.

Lynn Abrahams-Host 09:42

Absolutely.

Vicki Nelson-Host 09:43

And so helping them, you know, help those students who are not in a special program like yours can be thinking about some of the same sorts of things how do I learn? And, you know, how do I approach things?

Lynn Abrahams-Host 10:00

The one last thing I do want to mention is the difference between working with my college students and being a parent, because as a parent, it’s really emotional, it’s really different, it’s I feel like I’m such, you know, I’m good at my work with students, but I sometimes feel like a mess when it comes to my own kids. So just to put that out there, as professionals, you know, we see a lot. You know, in a different way, you know, and as parents, we recognize the challenges and the difficulty and the you know, the hard parts of supporting your students.

Vicki Nelson-Host 10:47

So in a lot of ways it’s easier for you as a professional to do it. But that’s good for the students too, because they have someone who’s a little more objective and a little less vested to work with them.

Lynn Abrahams-Host 11:03

Right yeah, so I hope that explains a little bit about what I do.

Vicki Nelson-Host 11:10

And so this is a separate program that students pay for in college?

Lynn Abrahams-Host 11:19

Right and there are all different kinds of programs in high school I mean in colleges, and some programs you pay for. It’s a separate thing and we work with maybe about 20% of the student population at our college. There are a few colleges in the country that work only with students with learning disabilities, and then there are many colleges that offer accommodations. All colleges will offer accommodations but will offer even some extra support, so there are different levels. Parents need to take a look at what colleges offer when their kids have learning disabilities.

Vicki Nelson-Host 12:00

Well, I think that’s a perfect handoff the next person alphabetically, and we’re only going to do alphabetical for a little bit, because then I get to say I’m going to go last. But Elizabeth, you’re on that other piece of disability services.

Lynn Abrahams-Host 12:23

Right.

Vicki Nelson-Host 12:25

And the thinking that some high school students and parents should be doing and thinking about choosing college. So why don’t you talk a little bit about what you do?

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 12:37

Sure. So I have a very similar role to Linn’s. I meet one-on-one with students registered with our Disability Services Office and exactly my fear most days is that somebody is going to bring in their chemistry textbook and ask me how to approach it, because I do from a position of great ignorance.

So it’s all about strategies. It’s about metacognition, getting students to think about what will work for them, a lot of time management stuff, and so I’m glad that you made that distinction. So Lynn works in a fee-based program and there are several dozens of them, mostly clustered on the East Coast, although the granddaddy is out west in Arizona and I like to make sure. In my opinion, not every student needs or is a good fit for these programs, and it’s an important thing for folks to be aware of. I think sometimes they hear there’s a program and they think, oh, that’s wonderful. So, starting with the basics, as Vicki said, every college in the country has to provide accommodations, but there are some limits as far as what they are required to provide, and so this kind of one-on-one support that Lynn and I provide is an add-on, and colleges can charge for that.

Now where I work does not, and so, if we’re talking about students looking at colleges, when I wrote the book I spoke to both college consultants who specialize in working with students with learning disabilities, ADHD and autism, and also disability services directors at the college level, and the agreement really was that students need to look at colleges that fit them in all the different ways, and so, as Lynn noted, there are two colleges that specifically just serve these categories of students Landmark in Vermont and Beacon in Florida. But not everybody needs to attend one of those schools, and if you are looking at schools with certain majors, targeting the schools with those programs or the specialized schools is going to limit your search, and so families can be assured that any place the student goes has to do these sort of minimal things of extended time for exams and providing permission to record lectures for students who have difficulty with note-taking. And I’ve hit just a fraction of what we’re talking about. But it is a good idea to see who goes beyond the minimum. So where I work, students can see me for free. My colleague, who’s the full-time specialist, does a workshop every month on time management and reading and test preparation. We have a full-time assistive technology specialist. So there are things that colleges do that go beyond the minimum and what’s challenging about that and I’m getting in the weeds here already.

Sorry, but these are not programs. What Lynn works in is a structured program. You have to apply to get in. There’s a fee, as we said. You’re guaranteed certain services in that way, and where I work it is not a program, and so when you are looking to you can go and do these searches for 10-best colleges.

You’ll see 10-best colleges for students with disabilities, and so often they only include the schools with fee-based programs, and there are lots of different kinds of disabilities. They may not as good for students with mental health disabilities. So it takes going to each college on your student’s list and poking around the disability services side and looking for things like UMass. Amherst has the same kind of thing my school does. You can see a learning specialist for free, and they lay out how frequently students can do that.

I just happen to know these things from college. George Mason University has a really robust assistive technology program, and so for students interested in learning how to use this stuff, there’s probably somebody there who could at least teach you that. So it’s all dependent upon how much support students need and also agree that they need, and sometimes families are not in agreement between parents and students about how much help students are getting, and so that’s something to consider too, and pushing them toward a school with a fee-based program when they’re not showing any interest or willingness to utilize. It is probably not a recipe for success.

Vicki Nelson-Host 17:43

And I know Elizabeth again because we’ve had conversations that you’ve talked about students who go to college who perhaps have been on some kind of a plan in high school and then they go to college and say I want to do it on my own now and don’t register with disability services, and the importance of doing that, even if you end up not using it. I don’t know if you could talk a little bit about that.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 18:16

Sure, and the research shows us this. In this longitudinal study, a huge proportion of students who had had at least one accommodation in high school did not register, and the reasons are many and varied. So the first thing to address is it is not time consuming or effortful. It’s really another paperwork process, like everything else you do in college and then adult life, and in some cases there’s a brief meeting that you have where students just it’s an opportunity for disability services to go beyond what the paperwork says, maybe ask students some follow up questions. It’s not an interview like a job interview and you either answer correctly and get something or you don’t. So it’s important to emphasize to students that this is not a big deal and, importantly, if they’re registered, we can’t quote unquote, make them use it. So let’s dovetail and I’m sorry we poor Sarah, Sarah hasn’t even had a chance to get in. But to dovetail back to what Lynn said earlier, she doesn’t get in touch with parents and we don’t do that either. So students have to register with us. It’s a very deliberate process and they don’t when I say they have to if they want the accommodations. So let me see if I can go back. So if students can register with us at any time they want. They can wait until right before their last exams in their last year of college. We can’t say anything about that. That’s their freedom and it’s their right. But the accommodations begin once they register. And so when they register with us we’re going to say here’s all those stuff we’ve approved you for.

Generally, a notification will be sent to professors. Sometimes we send it, sometimes students get a message to forward, but then there are things they have to do to make things happen. So for exams, there’s a form that generally students have to fill out to tell us that they have an exam coming up so that we can make the arrangements. If that’s how it works, it’s all over the map at different colleges. So a student who’s been approved for extended time, who thinks actually I’m going to be fine, I’m not going to use it on this exam, just simply doesn’t have to fill out the form for us. That’s their right.

20:55

So we can’t quote, unquote make them use their accommodations if they get approved. In fact and we won’t we do not march to their dorms the day of their exams that we don’t know about again because they haven’t built out a form and drag them to the accommodated testing room, which I know some parents would really like. But it is really important to understand how, very much as this overused metaphor goes, they are in the driver’s seat students, so they have a lot of choices. Then if they, as happens every single term at colleges across the country, decide to, as you said, Vicki, try it out they’re going to see how college goes without it that’s fine. They can come to us after their first set of exams and register at that point, but nothing happens to make the grades that they’ve already earned go away. There’s no adjustment to that, there’s no do-overs. So this sense of responsibility that they take for those choices is something that families need to discuss.

Vicki Nelson-Host 22:02

That last sentence is really the important one that families and students need to talk about what accommodations they might need, what accommodations they might qualify for and whether or not they’re going to use them.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 22:19

The next question is going to be what else was not sure I can trust my student to do that? I can register her right? The answer is generally no. This is not legal or medical advice, but generally most of my colleagues do not allow parents to sign a student up for accommodations without the student’s participation. Yeah.

Vicki Nelson-Host 22:39

Good, so much to keep track of. Yes, so lots of important information for those students who might have learning differences and might need accommodations and we’ll move on. But disability services also serve students who have other kinds of disabilities besides learning differences learning disabilities. So it might be a student who has sight issues or hearing issues or mobility issues, or all of those things.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 23:13

Mental health students who their physical disability affects like what they need to eat just nutrition. Their dining services have been for years adjusting and making sure that students will have options.

Vicki Nelson-Host 23:28

So there are all those students who, whether it’s in a program or disability services, need some kind of accommodations or want or use some kind of accommodations, and then there are all the rest of them.

So we turn to academic advising and student success. Sarah tell us a little bit about, because students are used to a guidance counselor in high school. I know I talk later, but I serve as an academic advisor and I’m constantly saying to my students I’m not a guidance counselor and this is how it’s different. So talk a little bit about academic advising and this, I think, relatively new area of student success and student success providers.

Sarah Shane-Host 24:21

Sure, certainly happy to do so. So our office is called the Office of Advising and Academic Success and, unlike it sounds like Lynn and Elizabeth, we work with all the students in the college and, similar to Elizabeth, it’s not a fee-based structure at all. Every student is welcome and we certainly try to get every student as much as possible into our office for a number of reasons. So we have both, as you mentioned, an advising side of our house as well as an academic success side of our house, and so a couple ways in which these things are different from high school is that, and as you mentioned, in terms of guidance counselor, much of what happens in high school, I think, with guidance counselors, it’s the guidance counselor reaching out to students and prompting students and encouraging students to do things. And in our world and the world of higher education and college, it’s really up to the student to do what they need to do, to take advantage of the resources that we have, and we want them to do that. We certainly reach out to them, we email, we do all kinds of different forms of outreach, but it’s up to the student to take advantage and for the student to respond and email us or come into our office or make an appointment to utilize our services, and we love when students do so proactively, because there’s certainly far more that we can do to help a student kind of before they’re in academic trouble and help them feel comfortable and feel confident, and more so than when they’ve just failed a test, which certainly happens, and we can certainly work with them after that as well. But we love to do things much more proactively, so we start reaching out to students before they’ve even started here orientation, and after, through the summer, before school starts. And so one thing I would suggest to parents is I think it is a little bit of a mindset switch for students to think about school before it actually kind of starts, and I think some students are a little nervous or feel a little anxious, and so we try to help them connect with us as their academic success coordinator, or their advisor, or sometimes at some schools the orientation leader kind of stays in touch with students so they can answer questions and to really encourage students to take advantage of that, because I think it really cuts down on students worries and anxieties about what they’re going to encounter and just feel comfortable and feel supported from the beginning and to really use the email of the college they’re going to.

27:11

I think that a lot of students live in their personal email. But colleges one thing I think parents and students don’t realize is, other than the admission office, for the most part we can’t use a student’s personal email to get in touch with them because we can’t guarantee it’s them and there’s FERPA guidelines which are kind of legal things similar to HIPAA in the medical field. So we need to make sure we’re talking to the students. So that’s where we will reach out to them and where everyone on campus whether it’s the registrar or housing or billing or everything in faculty certainly will only utilize the students’ college email address. So the sooner the student kind of starts realizing that and they will have a web of resources in their email from being contacted from different folks to make sure they read them and they, you know you don’t have to memorize every little thing in there, but kind of bookmark them, because at some point during the semester you’re going to need to kind of probably use some of the resources and some of the folks who’ve reached out to you and you want to know where that information is, because it will only make your life easier and I think students aren’t always in, especially 18-year-old students coming in from high school aren’t always super comfortable reaching out to what you know quote adults. They’re not always. Maybe they haven’t had a ton of conversations one-on-one with folks, so they that’s a kind of skill to start to learn and practice because we are here for them, we are here for them, the faculty are here for them, their advisor, the academic success coordinator.

It’ll look a little bit different, certainly, at every school. Every school has a little bit different setup, but we, everyone, is here to help the student. The student just has to reach out to get that help. And then we’re here. And you know, I know some students. I don’t want to bother them. Oh my goodness, they’re not bothering us. That’s what we’re here for and we want to get that outreach from them because there’s so many ways that we can help them and support them that they don’t even know, similar to some things that Lynn and Elizabeth were saying. You know, within our office our academic success coordinators work with students on time management and test taking strategies and reading strategies, and we certainly have a writing center. We have all these things that students might not even realize they would benefit from, so we would love for them to be aware of them sooner rather than later. So I think those are some of the differences.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 29:39

Vicki. If I may, something important that Sarah said and I meant to say is that sometimes families are looking to the Disability Services Office to provide certain things that are available to all students, and not necessarily by people with a background in special ed, but sometimes it really doesn’t matter. You just need somebody to show you a new way of studying or managing your time, and so you know there are resources beyond what that office might provide.

Sarah Shane-Host 30:08

Definitely. Thank you, Elizabeth, for saying that too. So, yes, I mean we work with every student under the sun, with or without accommodations. That stuff doesn’t happen within our office, that we have a Student Disability Services Office, other places called Accessibility Services. Again, these are different titles in different places but our services are for every student and you know we want to make sure to get that information to the students. And again, we have so many resources and technology has certainly helped over the years with different.

I remember, you know, back in the day we’d write our little flashcards and by hand and do all that. Well, now there’s Quizlet and there’s a million things online to help students, you know, with test taking and quizzing and just learning different ways. And much of it, as Lynn had mentioned earlier too, is how do they learn best, like how do things kind of resonate with them?

So we talk to them about that too, like how do they what type of you know and kind of break it down for them, because a lot of students haven’t necessarily thought of this in those terms yet. They just know they did better in some classes than others in high school, but they maybe didn’t connect why that was, and often it’s you know, are you kind of learner? Are you a visual learner? You know, are you auditory? What are the different? And you know we don’t want to get, we don’t want to scare them off with too many big terms or anything but kind of helping them realize how they learn best and then how to work with that information. If one of the faculty in one of their classes may not be necessarily teaching most of their class in that way, how can the student utilize our services and our resources to help them learn best in a way that it might not be presented, that information might not be presented to them initially.

Vicki Nelson-Host 31:52

So you know, that’s and again. Someone in the student success office or an academic success coordinator we call them coordinators, whatever their title is are not necessarily a tutor in a subject, but can help the student connect with the tutoring center, and find those.

So, it’s really about resources, you know. Another thing struck me as you were talking, Sarah, and talking about the importance of students using their college email, which we’re always hammering students about, and how much information they get in the summer and all along. There is a very often because I hear this from students a tendency for parents to say well, I don’t trust that my kid’s going to pay attention to that. I’d better get their password and log on to their email. And we really really, you know, i-.

Sarah Shane-Host 32:55

Discourage that many times. Discourage is a good word because that’s really not helping the student.

Vicki Nelson-Host 33:02

You know, reminding them to check their email and reminding them that information is going to and for parents to remember that information is going to come to the student, not to the parent. And so, you know, reminding them to check and do all of that, but not to get their password and be checking their email for them.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 33:25

It’s actually. It’s a violation of tech code at some schools. Some of my colleagues have commented it’s against the school code to give your password to anybody.

Sarah Shane-Host 33:36

Okay, good to know, I know that’s very important and that’s absolutely what we don’t want. Again, we want parents, certainly to, you know, help the student with. You know, remember, you know if just as a quick you know, as Vicki said like a quick reminder, like, oh, did you check your email? Did you see if we owe a bill, you know, but put it the onus on the student to do that, because the student’s responsibility even in, you know, in most families, of course, if the parents are helping finance this and but it’s the student’s responsibility to make sure that’s all set. The parents don’t have the access that students do, and students need to make sure that their classes aren’t dropped for non-payment because they missed the deadline. So the students have to be aware of all the kind of facets of this, which is certainly an adjustment, but it’s in no way insurmountable, especially if students kind of are checking that email and I’m sorry, Lynn, did you have something you wanted to add?

Lynn Abrahams-Host 34:27

I just wanted to ask you, Sarah, about the parents’ role in advising, like that’s a big difference between high school and college too. Can you talk a little bit about it?

Sarah Shane-Host 34:39

Oh sure, certainly, thank you. So the students one thing that I would recommend parents, you know, when they’re looking at colleges and kind of having students decide what type of experience they want, make sure that the school has different types of resources available to help students. So I think, you know, we, as a small liberal arts college, I think we do a good job and of course we’re always trying to do better anyway and improve and find other ways to reach students but have different resources available so that students are very clear as to what their degree requirements are. All the ways in which they can meet them make it as a little bit easier than just having to kind of comb through the catalog that we used to do a million years ago.

You know, there’s lots of different ways that schools can provide resources and different degree maps or different things that students can utilize with their advisor, and the advisor is there to 100% to help guide the student and answer questions. But again, this is something that’s driven by the student to make sure that they’re paying attention to what they need and they’re asking the right questions too. And, you know, while that’s certainly something that students can explain to the parent after the meeting with the faculty advisor or the academic advisor it’s, and maybe the parent, you know, can prompt the student to ask the advisor some questions as well. But it’s really meant 100% to be a meeting between the student and the advisor. The parent is not intended to be in those meetings.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 36:14

Vicki, can we talk about FERPA? We keep using it or alluding to it.

Vicki Nelson-Host 36:20

Sure, why don’t you?

Vicki Nelson-Host 36:25

As an academic advisor.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 36:26

I’m going to jump in and talk about that role, because I think what we’re all sort of circling around or touching on is family education. Family educational rights Privacy Act is the one, and for parents of students with disabilities who’ve had an IEP, this may have rung a bell for you, because once your student turns 18, they are an adult, and then the IEP case manager communicates with your student and the student signs a release for them to be able to talk to you. So at college, colleges are very happy to send parents the bill. That’s the one thing you can get without a FERPA release, and again, it’s not legal or medical advice, but essentially, if you want to talk to anybody else, your student needs to give permission.

Some of my colleagues say that every different department or office on their campus has a FERPA release of its own. Some say there’s one for the whole shebang, so it will depend. So while we’re talking about a, sarah was advising appointments being between the student and the parent, and for Lynn and me, I never interact with parents at all. It’s just they don’t get access to me in any way, and so one of the things to know about a FERPA release is that even if your student gives permission to talk to any of us, it doesn’t create an obligation for us to then respond, even if you’re paying the bill. Unfortunately it doesn’t obligate. At least you know this isn’t legally speaking, but generally colleges don’t view this as meaning now professors have to respond to emails from parents, or learning specialists or advisors do that, and that’s really important. So some some very smart colleagues of mine have said you know the parent emails and wants to know what the students grades are. First of all, we probably don’t have access to that information and I, you know, maybe advisors and Sarah and Vicki, you guys can talk about that. But learning specialist programs, I mean, we don’t have that access. And even if we do, my colleagues have said, but I won’t share that with the parents I will tell the parent, tell the student, you know, tell the parents to contact their student to the student.

38:51

So I was thinking as Sarah was talking about, as we’ve talked about here with emails. One way for parents to get students to do that is get on Zoom or FaceTime or whatever and have the student go through those emails with them rather than doing it for them. But it’s, it’s all about the student is the primary contact. The student can give permission and with Zoom things have changed a little bit. That intake meeting I was talking about for disability services used to be when the student showed up for freshman orientation. They’d walk into our office and have that meeting. Well, now, because of Zoom, some of my colleagues still are doing it all over the summer while students are still at home. Can a parent be in on that meeting? Probably, but again, still, students still has to give permission and we want the students to be the ones talking.

Vicki Nelson-Host 39:49

And I do, you know, as an academic advisor, I do some of that, some of the advising over the summer, which is meeting with the student to plan their schedule for the fall, and often parents want to sit in on that meeting and I’ll say, how about going and getting a cup of coffee and sometimes they will, all right, I’ll leave the room, and sometimes they won’t and I can’t do anything about it. Or they’re sitting just off screen.

Yes, and, and I would say to parents, we can usually tell when that’s happening, because the student keeps looking off to the side and you know parents need to do what they need to do, but often the student. It’s a first message to the student of I trust you and I, you know I I’m going to let you try to fly with this and you can always check after. What did you decide? What did you talk with your advisor? So there’s all of that.

Sarah Shane-Host 40:52

So just, oh sorry, Vicki, just to add to that one thing too I think most parents it’s helpful if they realize that you know it is so important for that, if at all possible, for that student to have that first meeting with their advisor on their own, so they can talk about their hopes and dreams and ideas and thoughts without feeling, you know, that maybe it’s not everything they would want their parent to hear, or you know, just so they can be honest and the faculty can hear where they’re coming from.

And I know often parents are worried oh well, the student, my student, is going to forget to ask this. And you know the parents are more worried about logistics and this and that. But that’s not the only time that, by any stretch, that the student will have to talk to their advisor so that the parent should feel comfortable to know that. You know what if, after meeting with the advisor, the students then relaying the information afterward to their parent, the parents like, oh, did you remember to ask this or that? And the students like, oh, you know, we didn’t, you know we ran on time or I forgot to ask that the student can always either, however it’s set up for that particular institution, but either email the faculty or email the advising center or something. There’s many, many, many ways of getting that information needed and it doesn’t have to come, you know, from the parent.

Vicki Nelson-Host 42:02

That parent can certainly send a student into that meeting with a list of questions.

Elizabeth Hamblet-Host 42:06

Right, I think that preparation piece has helped. Yeah.

Vicki Nelson-Host 42:10

Yeah, so so I’ll just put you know sort of tie things up here, because a lot of what I could talk about has already been covered and that’s, that’s fine, that’s super.

I mean, in really trying to understand these roles, I think I really have two roles in terms of working with students, and one is that I do do service in academic advisor and, and one of the things I try to help students understand with that is, again, we are a small institution and it is different at different institutions, and some institutions have professional advisors.

That that’s all they do. We happen to have a system of faculty advising where your advisor is a faculty member, but the difference is very often in high school, a guidance counselor is responsible for two or three hundred students and I’m an advisor to somewhere between 12 and 20 students, and they’re not all first year students, so they’re spread across the and so there’s really the opportunity for the academic advisor to get to know the student and and that advisor should be the students kind of “go to person. If they especially if they’re not in a program like Lins or working with the Disabilities Services Office, the the academic advisor is the person who can help them find the resources that connect with the resources and think about various things. So so that’s a really important relationship. But again, I’m in my office and it takes the student to reach out to me. It takes the student to be proactive and they know where to find me. I don’t know where to find them, I mean I know where they live, but I’m not.

44:00

I’m not going into the dorm and knocking on their door, so you know they need to come to me. I think one of the I don’t know if it’s a frustration, but one of the realities of being an academic advisor