The job of a graduate coordinator goes far beyond advising students. They must be effective advocates for graduate students and graduate causes for the School of Nursing. In addition to being accessible to students, the graduate coordinator role involves:
- Providing an effective liaison between students and the graduate advisor, the graduate program, and the graduate school
- Having the ability to carry out administrative tasks
- Anticipating problems and resolving issues effectively
- Having great communication and organizational skills
- Having the ability to promote efficient and effective administration of the graduate programs
In this session of “Let Me Give You Some Advice,” we meet Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz, graduate coordinators for the School of Nursing.
Why is advising important?
Ortiz: Faculty advisors help graduate students navigate the system by assisting students in completing their program requirements for their MSN, post-MSN (certification) or PhD program and developing career goals. Graduate advisors and the graduate program coordinators also assist with The University of Texas at Austin and the School of Nursing policy and procedures, along with administrative duties submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies or Graduate and International Admissions Center.
Demchuk: Advising at the graduate level is two-fold. All graduate students have a faculty advisor who they officially meet twice a year to ensure that they are meeting course requirements for the concentration area in which they are enrolled. As a graduate coordinator, I support the faculty advisor by having a strong working knowledge of the academic policies as well as understanding each program of work, which also ensures that the student meets all course requirements and that all policies of the graduate school are being followed.
What is a typical day like for you?
Demchuk: It would depend on the semester and time of year. October through February, my typical day involves working on admissions and communicating with prospective students and the admissions team. A month or so of every semester, a typical day is preparing and coordinating advising. During the beginning of each semester, it’s dealing with registration issues or questions. No matter what time of year, a big part of most days is communication with students, prospective graduate students, and assisting graduate deans and faculty with data and questions. In addition, I need to be available at a moment’s notice to complete important time-sensitive tasks, which is an integral part of any process that ensures student success at the graduate level.
Ortiz: Answering 75 plus emails the first thing in the morning, returning several phone calls, being available for walk-ins during business hours, and working on several projects as we prepare for the next business cycle; for example, admissions, registration, prospective students, recruiting, advising, current student assistance, graduation. The list goes on!
What’s a typical question you get?
Demchuk: There are several. When is the last day to drop a course with a refund? Can I take this course credit/co-credit? Can you help me register for this course? Can I use this course for my support course?
Ortiz: Does the School of Nursing offer graduate online degree programs? Are there scholarships for me? How much scholarship funding may I expect to receive?
What are some of your job duties other than meeting one-on-one with students?
Demchuk: Speaking with prospective students, facilitating information sessions for the AE-MSN program, gathering graduate data for the School of Nursing and the university, managing admissions for the AE-MSN and AE-PhD program, coordinating and managing, advising internal transfers, keeping all documents and information current, managing graduate fellowships processes, assisting with compliance, assisting with School of Nursing alumni needs, and being part of team with all of the other School of Nursing departments.
Ortiz: Recruiting in the Texas area, certifying graduation, and assisting with graduation ceremony are some of the fun duties.
What do you consider the most important part of your job?
Demchuk: Being a liaison for School of Nursing graduate students and the university; which means I’m available to assist, direct and support each student to ensure that they are successful.
Ortiz: Being available to assist current students, faculty and prospective applicants in understanding the policies and procedures in order to achieve their educational goals.
What’s been one of the more difficult questions you’ve had to answer or situations you’ve had to deal with?
Demchuk: I don’t think any question or situation is too difficult to answer or deal with but the ones that tug on my heart are situations that are personal (loss, illness, etc.) and that are affecting or inhibiting student success.
Ortiz: Why hasn’t the School of Nursing started the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program since it is mandatory by 2015? This is a topic that applicants hear in chat rooms, that it will be mandatory for all nursing programs in the U.S. to establish a DNP program by 2015 and eliminate the traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs. THe DNP is not a mandatory requirement. It is a recommendation by the accrediting board for nursing programs to consider. The School of Nursing is currently exploring the possibility of starting the DNP program, but doesn’t have plans to dissolve the traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs.
What should students understand about the services you offer before they come to see you? How should they prepare?
Demchuk: A graduate coordinator can answer questions or point a student in the right direction, and we are here to help. But I like to instill a sense of responsibility in students by asking them to, at minimum, search for information prior to coming to my office. The School of Nursing and UT websites hold a wealth of information, and it just takes a SEARCH to find answers.
Ortiz: Students should understand that our office is available to assist them with their academic goals as they pursue their MSN or PhD degree. We provide the tools and resources needed to complete the necessary paperwork required by the university and the School of Nursing. Our goal is make life easier and less stressful so the students can focus on their studies.
Anything else you’d like to share about the job or about working with students?
Demchuk: I have worked in many roles in post-secondary admissions and student affairs for over 13 years, and my favorite aspect of every position has been the opportunity to work with students and watch each one succeed and GRADUATE! Being a small part of a student’s reaching the finishing line through graduation is very fulfilling.
Ortiz: It is one of the best jobs on campus. I have the opportunity to see students earn their degree (graduate) and walk the stage (commencement). That is the greatest joy, plus all the thank you’s we receive for doing our job. That’s rewarding to me … to see so many smiling faces of success.