As registration for the Spring 2012 semester gets underway this week, students who visit the HCC Advising Center at 273 Frost will find a much different and improved space thanks to a $700,000 reconstruction project.
"We wanted a place that is welcoming and would function as a one-stop service shop for students with respect to their academic enrollment needs," says Yanina Vargas-Arriaga, HCC's vice president of Student Affairs.
By all accounts, HCC's Advising Center was, for years, a rather unpleasant space. "Hot, ugly, musty, dark, noisy," says Vargas-Arriaga. "For too many years, that place was an institutional oversight."
No more. The new space is bright, fresh, open and inviting. Students can now sit and wait to talk to an advisor in the comfort of upholstered armchairs. There are six self-service computer stations for students who want to do their own research on classes, academic programs or transfer opportunities.
"If they get stuck, if they run into a stumbling block," says Vargas-Arriaga, "there is always someone there to help them."
Students should note that, because of the recent storm and closing of the HCC campus, priority registration has been extended an extra two days, until Nov. 18.
The Advising Center has more advising stations, ten now compared to seven before, and each one is now large enough to accommodate students in wheelchairs. "We created larger cubicles that all look alike," said Vargas-Arriaga. "It's important that students don't have to feel like they have to go to a particular advisor based on their mobility. "We want everyone to feel treated with dignity and respect."
Before, the Advising Center shared the space with HCC's Educational Testing and Photo ID centers. But the noise and bustle from the Advising Center and Photo ID Center proved disruptive to students taking the mandatory tests used to gauge their academic levels. Those areas have now been split up. Educational Testing and Photo ID are now next door in an adjoining space, maintaining a connection but clearly separating their functions.
The last piece of the reorganization was to move Transfer Affairs out of Admissions and into the Advising Center. "We believe in providing a seamless advising process for students," says Vargas-Arriaga. "They can come if they need to have an advisor look over their transcript, or get help making course selections, then see the transfer counselor to make sure they have the right credits they need for the college program they want."
There is also a reception area, a small meeting room in the back, and an extra office that can be used by college recruiters who come to campus to meet with potential transfer applicants. During peak times-priority and open registration periods-the Advising Center will see more than 200 students a week.
All students-new, transfer or returning-must visit the Advising Center as part of their educational planning process. After they take their placement tests, they come to the Advising Center to meet with one of the on-call advisors, pick a major, review their test scores, and select their first semester classes.
"All students are assigned a faculty advisor on the basis of their major, but the Advising Center is an open to any student who needs advising at any time of the year," says Linda Scott, the advising center's assistant director.
During one recent morning, HCC sophomore Rachel Guillotte, a liberal arts major from Westfield, was resting in a cozy armchair in the Advising Center, waiting for her noon appointment with Transfer Affairs counselor Mark Broadbent. "I'm here to talk about transfer, to see what colleges offer," she said. "I'm not up on this kind of thing so I'm hoping he will help me figure out where I want to go."
Students can make an appointment or just drop in between classes. They can also talk to an advisor by telephone (413-552-2722) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). All services are free. The Center is open Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.