SOCORRO, N.M., August 2, 2000 -- Administrators at New Mexico Tech have reallocated some of the university's current resources -- both human and fiscal -- in order to establish an on-campus Advising Resource Center for its students.
The new Advising Resource Center, which was created in response to directives spelled out in the university's Strategic Plan, is being developed as a centralized counseling and tutoring center and resource library for both students and faculty.
A recent internal study focusing on students' "First-Year Experience" at New Mexico Tech also recommended that the university take immediate steps to form an advising center as a means of increasing both student enrollment and retention at the state-funded research university.
"In order not to reinvent the wheel, we first looked at models of advising centers which already had been established at other universities," says Herbert M. Fernandez, New Mexico Tech's Vice President for Institutional Development. "We then took what was best about these other programs and custom fit it to New Mexico Tech and to the particular needs of Tech students."
Ultimately, it was Tech President Daniel H. López who made the final decision to go ahead with creating the school's new Advising Resource Center, but only under the stipulation that it be done with current resources in a cost-effective manner.
"In order to make the Advising Resource Center a cost-effective proposal, we merged the Admission Office with Student Services to come up with an entirely new umbrella organization -- Student Affairs," explains Fernandez. "After examining the implications of this initial reallocation of human resources, President López then furnished the remainder of the financial resources needed to establish the Advising Resource Center. . . . If he hadn't acted decisively in a timely manner on the proposal, New Mexico Tech would have had to wait several more years before it could implement a new advising center."
Elaine DeBrine Howell, who previously served as a counselor and coordinator of academic support at New Mexico Tech, has been picked to head Tech's Advising Resource Center.
"The Advising Resource Center currently is in a transition period between development and implementation," DeBrine Howell says, "but we're moving forward with a lot of good ideas for programming. Right now, I'm in the process of meeting with the chairpersons of the academic departments to determine how the Advising Resource Center can assist the faculty in their delivery
DeBrine Howell envisions the center as a place where Tech students can come to get answers to questions about academic issues, preliminary class schedules, study skills, time management, coping with stress, and establishing career goals.
In addition, a planned resource library will lend technical support to faculty advisors, as well as students.
"A student who wants to build up his or her study skills will be able to come in to the center and check out books, view videos, and work with interactive software programs," DeBrine Howell points out.
"Since we are a small school, we have the advantage of offering one-on-one interactions between students and the faculty," she says. "Our students are able to be guided by the experts in their fields from the very beginning. The Advising Resource Center will be able to facilitate that very important relationship between students and faculty.
"Using the Advising Resource Center won't be a one-shot deal for most students," DeBrine Howell continues. "We're really set up to be a multi-resource center which focuses on problem- solving. And, that's something a student can use throughout his or her career. Although we may not be able to solve all the problems a student might encounter here at Tech, we will at least be able to find out who can."
DeBrine Howell says she and her staff will continue to coordinate their efforts with all of Tech's various academic departments, student organizations, and individual students and faculty members.
"Retention is a big issue at this university and most others around the country," DeBrine Howell adds, "and the single most important factor in ensuring students stay to complete their education is providing them with a personal connection to your campus. . . . A student's advisor can be that connection."
Although the Advising Resource Center is not yet set up to deliver all the services that DeBrine Howell and other Tech administrators foresee, the new center is scheduled to be fully operational about the same time New Mexico Tech's First-Year Experience student retention program begins building up steam -- sometime prior to the 2001 fall semester.
As for the other new campus office which was created by the recent reorganization -- the Student Affairs Office -- former director of Tech's Admission Office, Melissa Jaramillo Fleming, is now in charge of overseeing that newly created organization.
"In establishing the new Student Affairs Office, it was our hope to also contribute more to the Strategic Plan's goal of increasing student retention at New Mexico Tech," Jaramillo Fleming says. "As such, we will now be able to concentrate on enrollment management by combining and directing our efforts toward improving both recruitment and retention at the university."
The Student Affairs Office -- which includes Tech's Admission Office, Minority Programs, International Programs, Career Services, and the Student Health Center -- is destined to play a larger role in Tech students' lives, Jaramillo Fleming points out, since by its very nature, students will tend to have more contact with the Student Affairs Office from the time they are first recruited to the time they prepare for graduation and begin looking for jobs.
"The real beauty of this merger of the Admission Office and what used to be Student Services into Student Affairs is that it was all done with personnel and money that were already there," Jaramillo Fleming says.