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When the Mentors Are Away: What Academic Meetings Mean to Students

Jun 30, 2015

A message from your WGU mentors.

Once or twice a year, mentors may be harder to reach because we are attending academic meetings and commencement. Your regular mentor calls might be rescheduled, and it might take us longer than usual to get back to you when you have questions. We know that our delayed communication can be inconvenient for you, and your success and satisfaction are very important to us. We hope that answering the questions below will help you understand why we hold our meetings and why they are so valuable both to us and to you.

When and where are the academic meetings?

In the summer, all mentors and staff travel to Salt Lake City for 3-4 days. This year, our summer meetings will be from Tuesday, August 11, through Saturday, August 15. We also hold smaller, college-level meetings during the winter, typically in January or February. The winter meetings are shorter and are held in a variety of locations.

Why are academic meetings beneficial to mentors, staff, and students?

Much of the focus of WGU academic meetings is on training and collaboration. Mentors and staff get to meet colleagues from other departments, share ideas and methods, and build new connections so that we can give you excellent support the rest of the year. We also use the meetings to set our goals as a university and discuss the feedback and suggestions that you provide when you complete our student satisfaction surveys. Our days during the meetings are packed with workshops, large group meetings, and small collaboration sessions. Team-building activities take up the evenings. It's a whirlwind, but hugely valuable—we leave recharged and recommitted to your success at WGU, with lots of great new ideas for how to better support you in your journey to your degree.

What happens during commencement?

The academic meetings aren't only a time for faculty and staff. We also celebrate your accomplishments during this time, at the student mixer and commencement ceremonies. Mentors and instructors who are able to attend the mixer get to meet their students and graduates who are there—and usually, they’re meeting for the first time! At commencement, mentors and instructors celebrate with new graduates. You may have watched a commencement ceremony or two on the WGU YouTube channel. If you have, you know how exciting and inspiring the ceremonies are. Commencement is the highlight of the meetings for us! We love seeing you succeed and celebrating your accomplishments with you. (If you haven't watched a commencement ceremony yet, take some time to do so! It's a great way to get inspired and motivated to get one step closer to your degree.)

How can I make sure the academic meetings don't slow my progress toward my degree?

You now know why we value the academic meetings and commencement. But, the great value of the meetings doesn't change the fact that during this time, mentors and instructors are harder to contact. So, we have some tips and advice to help you keep your momentum going even if it takes longer to hear back from us.

First and most importantly, plan ahead. Discuss your term progress with your program mentor and set clear, specific goals for what you want to accomplish during the time your mentor will be away for the meetings. Ask your instructors for tips on avoiding common roadblocks in your courses. Look ahead in your Course of Study, and make sure you know how to access all of the course resources.

Here are some examples of things you might want to think about as you plan ahead:

  • Do you need instructor approval for a task topic, or do you need help with task revisions? Contact the instructors before the meetings.
  • Do you need help with articulation or originality for a task? Contact the Center for Writing Excellence to speak with a writing mentor before the meetings.
  • Are you planning to take a preassessment or objective assessment? Request it before the meetings so your mentor can approve it.
  • Are you hoping to be able to retake an objective assessment? Get instructor approval for your retake before the meetings.

Second, have a backup plan so that you can keep moving forward even if your mentor can't get back to you right away. For example, suppose your goal is to complete task 1 during the meetings. What if you get stuck on the task and need help from an instructor? A backup plan for this situation might be to start working on task 2 while you are waiting for the instructors to answer your questions on task 1. Talk with your program mentor and your instructors before the meetings to discuss your backup plans.

Third, know whom you can contact for help. Mentors and instructors do have email access during the meetings, and we do our best to reply to your emails as quickly as we can. But, if you need immediate help, many other university departments are available. Student Services, Assessment, WellConnect, the IT Service Desk, E-care, the WGU Library, and the Learning Resources department are all available to you during academic meetings. You can find contact information for university departments in your student portal and in the Student Handbook.

We know that it can be frustrating when you don't get a quick response to your questions, and we really appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we attend our academic meetings. We hope you can see how valuable they are, and we hope to see you at a commencement celebration soon!

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