Student almost doesn’t graduate, has to petition requirement in degree audit

May 2, 2016

Joe Hollmann
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As graduation approaches and seniors scramble to get degree audits approved, the road to the World Arena is not always so smooth.

Senior psychology major Ashley O’Brien ran into complications with her degree audit, and almost didn’t graduate because she was not going to meet one of her degree requirements through a mix-up in information.

“About a month and a half into the semester I received a call from my adviser informing me that I was two credits shy of graduating,” she said through a text.

This call came after several meetings in the fall with her academic adviser to discuss and plan out the spring semester and the classes she needed to take.

“During those meetings my adviser told me all of the classes I chose would work and I would be able to graduate,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien’s case is not an isolated event, according to Brett Fugate, director of academic advising.

Fugate said in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, they get about 20 appeals a semester, with an 85-90 percent approval rate.

After going through a petition process in which the psychology department had to approve waiving her degree requirement after a formal petition, O’Brien will walk across the stage come May 13.

The mix-up was a nuanced requirement, as O’Brien had enrolled in a PSY 3480 Special Topics course for the fourth time, only to find out from the adviser a student can only count a maximum of nine credit hours from that course to the degree requirement.

After finding out she wouldn’t graduate on time, O’Brien was given two options: drop her PSY 3480 Special Topics course and find another class halfway through the semester, or file an appeal to the department.

She chose the latter.

Fugate received the information from Ruth Sansing, who sits on the Committee of Academic Progress. The committee tracks student appeals and petitions.

Ben Patzer | The Scribe
Students can meet with their advisor to map out their degree plan.

Fugate said academic advisers work closely with departments and colleges so they are able to communicate degree requirements to students so appeals are ultimately avoided.

“We want to ensure students get the right information,” said Fugate.

Fugate added that advisers are given very in-depth training a month or two before they start working with students.

Advisers will sit in on department meetings, and work directly with faculty members who are changing degree requirements to ensure students are positively affected by the changes.

Fugate said in the case of O’Brien, academic advisers are on the student’s side.

“If there ever is an adviser error, we work really hard to make it right by advocating on the part of the student,” he said.

“How would a student know they could take a class three times but not four?”

In this specific case, Fugate said the system in place to prevent and control these problems worked.

Fugate said because of the seemingly trivial requirements and policies, these kinds of situations do happen.

Fugate encouraged students to look online at their degree audits through their UCCS portal, as well as advising guides on the academic advising website.

At the end of the day, Fugate said students should advocate for themselves and ask questions, adding academic advisers are a great person to ask those questions.

To contact an academic adviser, the office is located on the second floor of Main Hall in room 208, and can also be reached by phone at 719-255-3260.