Ciara Smith anxiously picks at the eraser on her pink mechanical pencil.
Her hair pulled up in a bun, she sits inside her advisor’s office planning out her schedule for not only the upcoming semester, but the next three semesters.
Edinboro University junior, Smith, believes she has the rest of her college education planned out walking into the meeting.
She will spend this spring semester finishing classes required for her major at Edinboro, but her senior year will be different than it is for the typical student. She won’t even be on campus.
She plans to study abroad next fall and complete an internship for credit next spring. In high school, she traveled across Europe, but the one place she didn’t visit was London, and she’s always wanted to go there.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the UK,” Smith said. “So, study abroad is something I thought about when first coming here.”
But, if she won’t be on-campus for her last two semesters, this spring, Smith needs to complete most of the classes required for her major, except perhaps the ones she can take in London.
She comes in prepared with what she thought would be her schedule written neatly on a sheet of notebook paper.
Then, she meets with her advisor, Jim Wertz to discuss her plan.
“What would you like to take next semester?” Wertz asked.
Smith looks down at her paper and names the classes she hopes to take, but two courses she needs are offered at the same time.
Wertz suggests she take the Advanced Electronic Journalism course instead of Media and Audience, since she could take a similar course in London to replace that one.
She looks over at the screen where her degree works audit is pulled up, and then, glances back down at her notebook paper and turns her pencil upside down to erase part of her plan.
Scheduling, for many, is a stressful time during the semester. A student’s graduation date can be determined by what classes are offered and a student’s ability to get into those classes.
Smith wasn’t worried about what classes she needed to take, but Wertz brought some potential problems to her attention, the biggest one being the amount of credits that her study abroad classes would transfer as.
At Middlesex University in London, students typically take 60 credits — four 15 credit classes, two 30 credit classes or one 60 credit course. Smith is considering taking a journalism course and a film course, both worth 30 credits.
“You might need two more classes somewhere along the line,” Wertz said.
He suggests adding an additional class this spring and maybe taking a summer or winter class.
But, Wertz assures Smith that it won’t affect her graduation date if she is willing to consider those other options.
“I didn’t think my meeting was going to go this way,” Smith said, “but I thought this was very productive.”
At some points throughout his day, Wertz has four or five students sitting outside his doorway. He advises over 50 students, plus all the freshmen in the journalism department.
“It’s kind of like getting in line to go to a sold out concert,” he said. “Students who don’t have appointments...they really pile up out there.”
Smith actually had a different advisor as a freshman, but when there were some department changes, she began meeting with Wertz.
At that time, she was nervous to meet him and discuss her future, but now, things are incredibly different.
“I come to him on a daily basis to cry about my life, to just come here for advice or to see what’s going on in the department,” she said. “I feel like over the years, my relationship with my advisor has grown tremendously.”
This past summer, Smith stayed in Erie to intern at a local film production company, an opportunity first presented to her by Wertz.
“They are there to prepare you and guide you in your future,” Smith said. “He’s presented opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have been able to find on my own.”
Tracy Geibel is the Campus Life Editor of The Spectator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org