Over the past few years, St. Olaf College has worked to integrate advising within an expanded portfolio of academic support services for students. This fall, this change will be official, as its academic support center becomes the Center for Advising and Academic Support (CAAS).
Many of these changes are supported by a new endowed fund established by Susan and Richard Padula P ’17 as part of St. Olaf’s For the Hill and Beyond comprehensive campaign.
“Not one student comes with the same educational experience, same background, same challenges, and same resources. Yet traditionally we have provided uniform academic support services. More and more, we are building multiple pathways to support their success.”
—Kathy Glampe ’92, Director of Academic Support and Advising
“People often think of academic advising as registration — guidance on what classes a student should take in a given semester,” says Director of Academic Support and Advising Kathy Glampe ’92. “We are changing this approach so that students are aware of the many programs that support their performance and well-being and access these sooner.”
An expanded portfolio of services employs models proven especially effective at supporting student success. Greater support is given to students who need it, while more students benefit from programs across subjects, ability, and modes of learning. Offerings range from alternative testing formats to language support for multilingual students. The center also offers workshops and support to faculty to create inclusive learning environments.
As a result, 58 percent of all students used services last year, and 80 percent of recent graduates did at least once during their time on the Hill. This fall, pilot workshops offered in partnership with Athletics and the Piper Center for Vocation and Career will introduce first-years to the expectations of college learning as well as the opportunities and resources available to them at St. Olaf. The pilots this year target student-athletes; the center hopes to expand participation in the years ahead.
“Not one student comes with the same educational experience, same background, same challenges, and same resources,” says Glampe. “Yet traditionally, we have provided uniform academic support services. More and more, we are building multiple pathways to support their success.”
Supplemental instruction (SI) sessions support students enrolled in many traditionally difficult courses. Upper-level Oles who excelled in these courses lead SI sections, providing Oles an interactive space to ask questions about relevant study skills and course content. An initial pilot of 22 sections demonstrated SI strengthened student retention and success; the program has now grown to 110 sections across 40 courses. Last year 39 percent of Oles overall used SI, including 67 percent of first-years.
Ross Erickson ’20 participated in an organic chemistry section led by Mckenna Hanson ’18.
“Organic chemistry is challenging and rewarding,” says Erickson. “Everything in the course builds on top of the other. If you don’t master a concept and the class moves on, it’s difficult to catch up. Having a place to go with my classmates to ask questions and master difficult reactions really helped. Mckenna knew a lot about organic synthesis — I wouldn’t have done as well without her assistance.”
“We really felt supporting the innovation behind these programs would be the best way to help St. Olaf deepen and expand its impact.”
—Susan and Richard Padula P ’17
Susan and Richard Padula support the center because its programs help Oles excel. Their daughter Sydney Padula ’17 was an SI section leader; she is now pursuing a master’s in special education at Vanderbilt University.
“We really felt supporting the innovation behind these programs would be the best way to help St. Olaf deepen and expand its impact,” say the Padulas. “In an ever changing world, a liberal arts education helps students build the skills, flexibility, and resilience necessary to successfully adapt and change throughout their lives. The Center for Advising and Academic Support helps all St. Olaf students take full advantage of their education by asking ‘How do we help you keep getting better?’ It recognizes education is never-ending, and levels the playing field for everyone.”
Ultimately these changes will reinforce the success of St. Olaf students throughout their time on the Hill and beyond.
“College is a place where most students are challenged,” says Glampe. “We are working to make asking for help an ordinary part of the college experience — we want all students to succeed.”