Program offers walk-in advising for students

Freshmen now have a more personalized resource to turn to as they undergo the transition from high school to college, thanks to the Academic & Career Advising in Residence [ACAR] program recently implemented in the Hecht and Stanford Residential Colleges.
The program is intended to equip students with the tools they need to combat the initial academic concerns many freshmen are confronted with on a collegiate level.
“Many students, upon entering college for the first time, experience an initial shock about the college course load and career choices they are now being faced with,” Jackie Malka, advisor at Hecht, said. “Our job is to help alleviate that stress and guide them in a more positive direction that best fits them as individuals and students.”
Malka and Vivechkanand Chunoo, the advisor at Stanford, have both undergone extensive training in all areas of University life and have a general knowledge about most of the academic departments on campus.
Acting as “pre-advisors” to the actual academic advising process, the two describe their position as one similar to that of a high school guidance counselor.
“In the way that a high school guidance counselor becomes familiar with her students, it is our intent to do the same,” Chunoo said. “It is our goal to develop relationships with these students and then help them develop a plan of study that is conducive to their personalities and skill levels.”
Malka and Chunoo have a simple walk-in policy. Unlike the traditional academic advisors, who require appointments to be seen, students need only to pop into either of their offices to be counseled.
Luke Dixon, resident assistant, wishes ACAR had been in existence when he was a freshman.
“This is a great resource that the students have this year,” Dixon said. “It’s especially helpful that [the advisor’s] offices are located in the buildings where the students live. That way it’s not out of the student’s way to get help or advice or whatever they need.”
In addition, the advisors are not limited to regular office hours. They are available after-hours as well, particularly to those students who have evening classes and also to those who may need additional assistance.
“I’m a little jealous we didn’t have this when I was a freshman,” Dixon said. “When you’re first starting school as a freshman, it is one of the most confusing times of your life academically. To have these guys willing and ready to help you out is really great.”
The program, proposed by UM President Donna Shalala, has already received praise and support from various departments throughout campus.
“We’re really excited about this program,” Malka said. “As graduates of the University, we understand the frustration and even despair some students face their first year – that’s one of the reasons we think this program is so important.”
“Essentially, we’re giving them the firepower they need to move forward academically – and that’s exciting,” Chunoo said. “It’s horrible to see someone fail because they were misinformed. Hopefully, we can change that.”
To receive advising in Hecht, email Jackie Malka at For advising in Stanford, email Vivechkanand Chunoo at

Pamela Schiess can be contacted at