University office undergoes changes amid pandemic
By Melissa Garza
Published Friday, Sept. 3, 2021
TAMIU’s Advising and Mentoring Center underwent a name change—it’s now known as the Office of Advising & Retention. The office’s services remain the same, albeit mostly virtually, thanks to Webex and Blackboard Collaborate.
TAMIU alumnus Ricardo Ortegón serves as the school’s current director at the Academic Center for Excellence.
About the Office of Advising & Retention, Ortegón said, “This office is part of University College and provides academic advising services to all new undergraduate students—freshmen and transfers, athletes and students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies. Its purpose is to ensure that every TAMIU student receives quality advising on courses they need to take in order to successfully complete their education on time.
“Currently, the Office of Advising & Retention consists of academic advisers and oversees the Early Alert cases as reported by the faculty for students who are academically at-risk, such as students placed on probation or suspension.”
TAMIU students are no strangers to the Office of Advising & Retention and its many resources. Meeting up with mentors and academic advisers is routine and highly encouraged—things are no different during the pandemic. The Office of Advising & Retention was successfully able to shift from face-to-face to virtual operations in March of 2020.
“The online transition was smooth,” athletics academic coordinator Diana Blackwell said. “We prepared ourselves in case we had to transition online which did happen and our office was ready. What has changed is using video conferencing—WebEx and Blackboard Collaborate—a lot more than in previous semesters.”
The effort goes toward the office’s goal of helping students succeed academically and answer any questions they have.
“At first, the transition to online advising took some minor adjustments,” academic adviser Yadira Ramirez said, “but once we got the hang of it, we were able to reduce student wait time dramatically. We have been advising students virtually using Blackboard Collaborate. We create forms on Google Forms, as well as Microsoft Teams, to make it easier for students to connect with us as well as provide feedback in a timely manner.
“Calendly is used to schedule appointments without needing to use a phone. We use the OneDrive for sharing Excel sheets with coworkers in order to provide input simultaneously. These are just a few of the tools we use to provide a more seamless process for our students.”
Though most meetings occur online, students also have the option to meet with advisers personally.
“We mostly work online but if students want to meet with an adviser in person, we offer that option as well and follow all the safety precautions set up by TAMIU—such as social distancing, regular hand washing and wearing masks,” Ortegón said.
Ortegón says students can still access all Office of Advising & Retention services online, such as advising appointments, academic workshops and support coaching. All in all, advisers encourage students to take full advantage of these available support services and get involved on campus.
The Office of Advising & Retention expects to hire support coaches. Ortegón notes that support coaches will aim to “encourage and provide guidance to student peers. This is a great opportunity for students to develop leadership, communication and social skills, as well as meet other students.”
Interested students may contact the Office of Advising & Retention and visit their office at Zaffirini Success Center Suite 222, email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (956) 326-2886. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.