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Career and Academic Planning Experts Offer Advice for Student Success

October 10, 2018

This fall, St. John Fisher College opened the new Center for Career and Academic Planning (CCAP), a one-stop shop for students seeking advice and counseling as they map their academic journey. Located on the first floor of Lavery Library, the Center is staffed by professional advisors available for walk-in meetings or one-on-one appointments.

CCAP leaders Michelle Erklenz-Watts and Julia Overton-Healy

Fisher Family News sat down with CCAP leaders Michelle Erklenz-Watts and Julia Overton-Healy to learn more about the services available to undergraduates and how parents can best help their students as they progress along their academic path.

FFN: With the merge of the Career Center and academic advising, CCAP staff members offer double the knowledge, now able to help students with academic and career planning. How does this dual expertise offer our students an extra edge as they move through their four years at Fisher?

JOH: By blending these two elements, Fisher has created a seamless support experience for students. Working with our advisors, students receive guidance and wisdom to help them make decisions about how they integrate their studies with their career dreams. Its synthesis planning. Students can get help from any advisor instead of waiting for a ‘specialist’ to be available.

MEW: We pride ourselves on having individually unique relationships with each student.  This effort is going to be even better now that we can serve the student from course planning to internships to graduation and beyond.  We will be able to offer the students more personalized, authentic, and meaningful in- and out-of-class experiences because we truly know who they are and what they would like to be.

FFN: With the creation of The Fisher Edge, the College invested in cutting-edge software, including Cardinal Connections, Handshake, UAchieve, and FisherLink. What do each of these bring the academic and career advising staff, and how can students leverage these platforms to articulate and achieve their academic and career goals? 

MEW: FisherLink will help students connect and communicate with their instructors and support staff.  At any moment, students have the capability of sending a message or making an appointment with someone in their success network. UAchieve will be most useful as students build their schedule. It helps students stay on track with the requirements of the College and their major/minor. 

JOH: Handshake is one of the most powerful tools students have to see job and internship postings from our partner employers, on-campus interviewing days, employer visit days, career events, and more. Cardinal Connections will also be an extraordinary opportunity for students to connect with alumni, selected employers, and families for networking. It’s the Fisher version of Linkedin.

FFN: What’s one thing a first-year student can do to help jump start their academic and career exploration?

MEW: Set up a one-on-one meeting with their freshman advisor to ask that exact question.  Go to department meetings in their major or potential major and ask that exact question.  In other words, talk to different experts and get their advice.

FFN: Students will be registering for classes in a few short weeks. What are two questions they should be asking their faculty and academic and career advisors?

JOH: From the career perspective, I’d like to hear them asking, “how can I get some pre-career experiences during the winter break, or even plan for next summer?” and “can you help me get my résumé together and begin to build my professional brand?”

FFN: What are some ways parents can encourage their students to explore what their professional lives might look like after Fisher?

MEW: Encourage them to develop relationships with professors outside of the classroom (office hours are perfect for this), ask about experiential opportunities including internships, shadowing, service, and such, and visit CCAP advisors who will help connect the student with opportunities outside of the classroom.

JOH: When parents are partners with CCAP that makes a powerful, unified team. Encourage their student to use CCAP from the beginning, attend information sessions with employers who visit campus, come to career fairs, and participate in mentor-in-residence days, which we will be starting soon. Students also need to find time in their academic schedule to do pre-career learning—this really is the best way to explore a career before graduation.

FFN: What services or resources can parents encourage students to take advantage of to help address issues of time management?

MEW: Time management, or task management, is the biggest challenge for our incoming students. First, use a planner. Each freshman seminar also reviews time management strategies so students should definitely try what was presented in class.  Peer mentors are a great support to review and help a student implement such strategies. The Center for Academic Excellence offers workshops throughout the semester to master task management and CCAP advisors can work with students to find the strategy that best matches the student’s style.

FFN: What’s the best way to connect with CCAP advisors?

JOH: Students can use FisherLink for online access to make appointments with CCAP advisors; they can also use our walk in hours for quick help; or they can call our office.