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Westminster’s START Center slated to close next month

The START Center — which provides students with academic advising, placement testing, peer tutoring and looks to ease the transition from high school to college — at Westminster College sits empty on April 16. The center will close at the end of the spring 2018 semester and students will likely not experience much change when it does, according to Christie Fox, the director of student success and retention. (Photo by Traci Kenner)

Westminster College’s START Center — which provides students with academic advising, placement testing, peer tutoring and looks to ease the transition from high school to college — will close May 4. And when it does, students will likely not experience much change, according to Christie Fox, the director of student success and retention.

Research has shown the importance of student-faculty relationships and student feedback, Fox said in an email. That’s why Westminster is changing to a faculty advising model — meaning students will have their own faculty adviser, even if they haven’t declared a major.

“At one time, students would line up at the START Center to talk to an adviser before registration,” she said. “We’re not seeing that any more.”

Stephanie Richards, a senior communication major, works on her computer at the START Center at Westminster College on April 16. The center will close at the end of the spring 2018 semester — and students will likely not experience much change when it does, according to Christie Fox, the director of student success and retention. (Photo by Traci Kenner)

Some students at Westminster College said they’re not too concerned about the closure.

Kaycee Mortensen, a junior accounting major, said she once asked the START Center about the college’s new sports management minor, but the faculty knew nothing about it.

“They literally direct you to your adviser and it is pointless to have if they are never going to help you,” she said.

After the START Center closes, the existing advisers aren’t going anywhere. Students will still have support from Learning Community faculty, Fox said, and will still declare and transition to a faculty adviser in their major when they reach 60 credits.

Traci Siriprathane, the director of fitness, wellness and recreation at Westminster, said the Learning Community advising model is beneficial for both students and faculty.

“I like being an advisor to first-year students,” she said. “I get to know my students through our Learning Community, so by also being their advisor, it helps me stay connected to them until they are ready to declare a major.”

Westminster has not officially announced the news about the START Center closure and plans to communicate the change to students at the start of the next academic year.

“We want to do it after [faculty] has moved, so that students who are impacted will learn where the advisers they’ve been working with are located,” Fox said.

This fall, all new students will have the same faculty adviser until moving to their major, Fox said.

“I think this is a great way for us to strengthen the work that’s already happening in the Learning Communities while still providing the kinds of support that our students need,” she said.

The college has made no plans about who will fill the space in Carleson Hall once the center closes, Fox said.

Where will START Center advisers be on campus?

  • Frances Peacock advises transfer, veteran and international students. Her office is in the Center for Global Engagement.
  • Jimmy Kendall’s office will move to Malouf Hall, where he will continue to advise students who need extra support at the end of spring semester.
  • Karen Hicks and Disability Services moved to the new Testing Center/Disability Services office in the basement of the Giovale Library at the beginning of spring semester.
  • Christie Fox, director of student success and retention, will be on the second floor of Converse Hall at the end of spring semester.  

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Traci is a senior communication major who loves to design and manufacture banners, stickers and signs for her family business, Galaxy Signs. Aside from spending time with her family, she works at Westminster College’s Dumke Center for Civic Engagement, is ASW’s judicial clerk and is co-president of the Design Club.

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