New Student/First Year Programs (State-Operated)
Discovery Assistant Program, Binghamton University
First-year undergraduate students often struggle with various academic and career-related transitions as they move from the high school environment to the college environment. In particular they struggle with learning about campus resources, understanding General Education requirements, degree audit reports, choosing courses that meet program requirements and moving from the status of “undecided” to choosing a major. The Discovery Program through the use of peer assistants and an academic advisor provides students with the resources needed to address these transitions and helps students “Discover” their options. The Discovery program is jointly administered by Academic and Student Affairs, bringing academic and career-related assistance to the Residential Communities where students live. The Discovery Program’s primary objectives are to identify student transitions throughout the undergraduate years in four stages. By helping students develop a strong foundation in the first-year, they are better prepared to achieve the learning outcomes that are expected for each year. In addition, the Discovery Academic Advisor and Peer Assistants develop and implement programs, provide outreach efforts and services that meet the needs of students in each year of their baccalaureate education, provide and foster academic support and living/learning experiences and collaborate with faculty and campus offices in providing programs and services. The Discovery Program objectives for students include:
Discovery 1- Foundations: First-year students get connected and assimilated to campus resources, faculty, staff and student organizations. They learn to understand General Education requirements, degree audit reports and where to go on campus to get answers to their questions. They also learn the expectations listed below for each of their undergraduate years.
Discovery 2- Reflections, Career Exploration and Plan of Action: Second-year students do some introspection and begin exploring viable majors (if undecided) that meet their short and long-term interests, as well as make decisions to possibly change their major to better match their individual passions and interests. They begin to identify possible internships or other experiential opportunities that will help them explore various careers.
Discovery 3- Experiential Education: Juniors gain a clear understanding of the value of acquiring practical experience even if it’s not directly related to their major or career interest(s). They are encouraged to explore and seek opportunities that will enable them to gain empirical knowledge that will assist in their post-graduate and career pursuits. Students usually complete an experiential education opportunity in their junior year and may include internships, volunteer opportunities, service-learning projects, Study Abroad, research projects or other type of experience.
Discovery 4- Capstone Experience: Seniors culminate their undergraduate educational experience with a written and oral presentation on a topic about which they are passionate, complete an honors thesis, complete research with a professor or complete an interdisciplinary experience.
The Program was designed by a task-force convened by the President of the University for the purpose of improving the undergraduate experience at Binghamton. The Program was designed to bridge the divisions of Academic and Student Affairs and is therefore supported by both. The Director of the program reports to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Associate Vice Presidents of Student Affairs/Dean of Students. The Academic Advisor/Coordinator of Discovery Assistants reports to the Director. The Discovery Assistants report jointly to the Academic Advisor/Coordinator and to the Resident Director of the residential building in which they live and work. The Discovery Assistants are responsible to provide assistance for all of the students in their building. They work closely with academic advising, career development, residential life and other campus offices.
What is the role of the Coordinator of Discovery Assistants/Academic Advisor?
The coordinator of DAs/academic advisor has an office in a residential community and oversees all supervisory, hiring, and training aspects of Discovery Assistants (28 total DAs) as well as serves as a general academic advisor for all students, particularly those who reside on campus. This is a newly developed position that derived from two independent positions- coordinator or Discovery Assistants and Harpur College Advising liaison. Having one person serve in both roles improved the clarity and efficiency for DAs in need of professional advising assistance for students with whom they interact and require more in-depth advising.
What are Discovery Assistants (DAs)? DAs…
- Live in each residential community, including two graduate DAs in the apartment communities and one undergraduate DA for true commuters
- Provide students with academic and career exploration information by serving as peer academic advisors
- Help students understand General Education requirements and select courses to meet them
- Help students interpret their Degree Audit Reports
- Help students explore our on-line educational and academic research and planning tool, Choices Planner, which enables students to establish and maintain individual electronic portfolios
- Assist students with course scheduling
- Help ensure students are receiving and education and not merely a degree while at Binghamton University
- Refer students to Discovery Advisor and appropriate offices for academic concerns and career-related issues
- Provide information on experiential learning opportunities and encourage students to explore these options
- Work closely with the Residential Life staff to help students connect with the BU community and its many extracurricular experiences
- Staff the Discovery Centers (academic resource centers)
What is a Discovery Center?
There are Discovery Centers located in College-in-the-Woods, Dickinson, Hinman, Newing, Mountainview, as well as in the Hillside and Susquehanna Residential Communities. DAs living in each of these communities staff their area Discovery Centers. In addition, there is a DA in the Off Campus College Office who assists local commuter students. Through these services, students receive easy access to academic support and help in developing a sense of identity and community through the on-campus living experience. The Discovery Center is identified as a student’s “primary resource for information” – information on campus activities, academics, and career exploration – a first step to get his/her questions answered. The Centers are open in the evening hours when most of the other campus offices have closed (Sunday – Thursday, 5:00 – 10:00 pm).
Page 2: Program Effectiveness, Collaboration, and Outcomes