Texas Southern University offers online advising in age of coronavirus

In spite of COVID-19, Texas Southern University current and prospective students can get their enrollment and advising questions answered remotely. In addition to self-directed online enrollment for students, the Student Academic Support Services (SASS) department provides advising resources to incoming and first-time freshman with the help of Enrollment and Completion Advisors (ECAs) who can serve students remotely.

SASS has set up an online appointment request for these students so that they can get advised, help them work through enrollment barriers (TSI, Meningitis, FAFSA, understanding their degree plan), and create a schedule for the fall. They have also set up the www.tsufreshman.com website so that students have access to important information, videos and can connect easily with advisors. SASS also plans to host virtual sessions to focus on different topics associated with TSU’s First-Year Experience. More than 100 students RSVP’d their first virtual information session.

“ECAs have always used TCLAW, the student success platform, to push information to students based on a communication calendar, intentional appointment setting, and to ensure that students have access to a 100 percent online communication system through which to access their advisors,” said SASS executive director Dr. Charlene-Mary A. James.

“This helped us greatly in moving online as students did not have to change the way they communicated with their advisors, outside of now having a virtual appointment option to replace the first-time freshman option.”

Cyla Johnson is an incoming freshman who utilized the SASS virtual experience to register for courses. Due to the novel coronavirus, Johnson has not been able to visit campus or have the opportunity for face-to-face interactions.

“My advisor helped me register for my classes for the fall,” said Johnson. “She has also answered all my questions regarding changing my major and the classes I need to take. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my transition experiences have been so much better than I imagined. My advisor has made the transition very smooth and has kept me updated about new information that I might need for the fall semester.”

When students finish their experience with SASS, they are advised by teams in their college. The College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS) is the most instructionally diverse unit at TSU. Because COLABS provides a majority of the General Education courses required for a bachelor’s degree, it is the heart and soul of all undergraduate education at TSU. Along with General Education courses, COLABS offers 10 undergraduate degrees and five graduate degrees through eight departments, housed in different locations on campus.

The COLABS Advisement Center, housed in Public Affairs Building Room 320, is made up of a team of five highly-dedicated advisers assigned to majors in specific degree plans. This makes it possible for them to become fully knowledgeable in the intricacies of the degree plan, work closely in partnership with the faculty and administration that houses their assigned degree plans, and develop a close rapport with the majors from their areas.

The advising suite went completely virtual with all services back in March. All office phones were immediately forwarded to home/cell phones and the five advisers formed a group text and stayed in touch with the Dean’s office through weekly virtual meetings. When the campus went remote, students were emailed to assure them that their adviser was immediately available by phone and email.

“Our advising unit has built a strong relationship with our students and many of our students were quick to email and contact them throughout this pandemic,” said Dr. Jane Perkyns, interim associate dean of COLABS. “They were instructed on how to make virtual appointments using T-CLAW, although most seem to prefer phone calls.”

In conjunction with the SASS office, introductory videos were developed to help smoothly transition the freshmen from their ECA advisers to their major advisers as they begin their sophomore year. For General Studies majors, a large percentage of students are 100 percent online, so a system was already in place for online advising.

For more information about online advising, incoming freshmen can visit the SASS page on www.tsu.edu or www.tsufreshman.com. For students who are not first-time freshmen, please contact your school/college’s advisor.