New joint advising hub to support CALS’ biochemistry and microbiology majors

To continue to improve the student experience, the Departments of Biochemistry and Bacteriology are combining their undergraduate advising services to form the Biochemistry and Microbiology Advising Hub. With support from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), the hub will have a team of four advisors in a new space.

The hub will provide biochemistry and microbiology majors with expanded advising support, including shorter wait times, more flexible drop-in hours, and overall increased access to an academic advisor. It will also build a professional community among the advising staff, who can work closely together to continually improve student services. The location of the new Biochemistry and Microbiology Advising Hub will be in Room 1315 of the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemical Sciences Building at 440 Henry Mall.

Biochemistry and Microbiology Advising Hub advisors (left to right): Amy Betzelberger, Jolijn Nagelkerke, Morgan Reidinger and Katy France.

“The first of its kind in our college, this pilot collaboration will allow us to provide a professional community for our advisors and continue to better the student experience in these two excellent majors in our college,” says Karen Wassarman, the CALS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “We’ve identified this as an area where we could do things more collaboratively, efficiently, and effectively and really serve our students in the best way possible, which is our top priority.”

In addition to traditional academic advising on courses and degree completion, the increased staff will continue to explore other critical areas — such as mental health and wellness, career services, student organizations, recruitment, and programmatic improvements — to guide students or point them toward campus resources.

Katy France, who has been serving as the microbiology advisor, will be one of the hub advisors, as well as the recently hired Jolijn (“Yo-line”) Nagelkerke and Morgan Reidinger. Amy Betzelberger, who served as the biochemistry advisor, will manage the hub and also advise students.

“Our goal is to best serve our students and also facilitate increased enrollment and diversity in both majors by expanding our services,” Betzelberger says. “First-generation students, for example, might not come in with as much knowledge about college, and being able to assist those students as best we can will ensure they stay with us and finish their degree. We hope to continue our commitment to those students.”

France is excited to work with Betzelberger in being part of a core group of advisers. Her knowledge of the microbiology major will be extremely valuable as all of the hub staff learn the requirements and post-graduation opportunities for both majors.

“In the long run, we hope to be able to offer more convenient and creative services to students,” France says. “I am excited to transition to the hub because, in addition to continuing to work directly with students, I will get to work with a team of advisors on a day-to-day basis. We may also have the opportunity to develop expertise in new areas since we’ll have more support.”

The chairs of both departments, bacteriology professor Charles Kaspar and biochemistry professor Brian Fox, are excited for the opportunity to share advising resources between two large CALS majors that focus on molecular and fundamental biological processes.

“The new advising hub will benefit microbiology majors with a team of professional advisors available to help guide students through their four-year degree plan,” says Kaspar, whose department offers the microbiology major. “The advisers will answer questions and concerns in a timely manner and help our great students meet the goals of both their major and budding professions.”

To Fox, the hub is an example of what CALS and its departments excel at, which is uncovering areas of partnership with the ultimate goal of moving the entire college forward.

“We are excited for the opportunities this hub will provide our undergraduate students and advising staff,” Fox says. “This initiative is at the heart of what we do as departments and a college: find creative and effective ways to serve our students in the best way possible.”

Wassarman says the hub will also build community among the student support staff, allowing them to foster new ideas and initiatives that will better serve students. In addition, she says she’d like to see the college broadly move toward this model of collaboration, which was inspired by CALS Organizational Redesign efforts.

“By providing this professional community, they will have backup support and ways to troubleshoot and brainstorm new ideas,” says Wassarman, who is also a professor in the Department of Bacteriology. “It is important to recognize the professional and unique skill set required for our undergraduate services. I have every confidence that this is going to be a success and others will be able to see how this idea of community building can support both students and professional staff.”

She adds that the hub is not meant to replace student-faculty relationships. Students and faculty are still encouraged to connect for mentorship. The hub’s advisors hope that it can also serve as a resource for faculty and instructors who identify students who need extra help.

“Students are going to experience a greater quantity and quality of advising services as we continue our commitment to their education,” Betzelberger says. “We are very excited about the possibilities this collaboration opens for us and the students in these majors.”