Collaborating Across Campus

Have you met with a student in a difficult situation and wished you could make navigating Cal a little easier for them?  Amy Azuma from the Berkeley International Office (BIO) and Paige Lee and Philaine Seher from the College of Letters & Science (L&S) have done that by designing a student-centered process that improves the experience of international students on Academic Probation.

Advisors know Academic Probation is challenging for all students. Something has gone wrong in the student's life -  perhaps illness, family issues, or coursework challenges - and this is impacting their academic performance. For international students on Academic Probation, visa regulations make the possibility of dismissal even more complex. 

Imagine you're an international undergraduate student on an F-1 visa in the College of Letters & Science. You've been successful so far at Cal, but your situation changes in spring of your sophomore year. Your parents, who are funding your education, tell you that they can only cover three more semesters. To address this, you find an on-campus job and enroll in 20 units to graduate early. When you think about your parents taking loans from friends and family for your tuition, you feel guilty; it's hard to sleep and hard to focus on coursework. During finals week, you begin having panic attacks and earn low grades. Your semester GPA falls to 1.3. Now, you're on Academic Probation. Becoming aware of your requirements to clear probation, accessing L&S and BIO advising, and using resources effectively will be essential to your success.  

Before Collaboration
It's week seven of the semester, and you're studying hard for midterms this week. You notice an urgent email from BIO asking you to come and discuss the impact of AP on your F-1 status. When discussing the impact of AP and your options with BIO, you have an academic question. To get the answer, you make an appointment with your L&S advisor, which takes you a week. Then you return to BIO for more advising. You may also need to complete a form which may require signatures from others on campus, taking time and effort to complete. You're trying to integrate the information you've received, but it's not clear how academic status and your visa status affect each other.

With Collaboration
You receive an email by week 3 of the semester. Your BIO and L&S advisors are co-advising at the BIO office during two key times of the semester, and you sign up for an appointment made just for you. Even if you couldn't make those appointments, L&S is holding appointments in Evans Hall for international students on AP.  Before you go to advising, you read the new webpage which BIO and L&S created to explicitly describe actions you can take to manage your AP status this semester. Watching a video designed by BIO and L&S will answer common questions you may have.  You easily get the necessary paperwork done at your advising sessions. At the end of the semester, you watch a second video reviewing how different options impact your academic and immigration status.  

The relationship between BIO and L&S has resulted in better tracking of which students have met with advisors, and those that require additional outreach. This new model has resulted in significant increases in the number of AP students that receive advising from BIO throughout the semester, allowing for earlier planning and reducing last-minute stress.  

Now it’s your turn.  Is there a department across campus you could partner with to streamline policies and support student academic success at Berkeley?