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Friday, November 22, 2013 - Adviser helps first-generation students make the grade
Laurie Shano, a School of Education and Human Services academic adviser, is working to help first-generation college students succeed at Oakland University.

Shano recently led a panel discussion at the annual National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) conference, during which she spoke on providing options and opportunities for first-generation college students.

A first-generation graduate herself, Shano advises students at Oakland University’s Macomb University Center location. There, her education students are broken up into cohorts for classes. Working with these small groups, Shano noticed a pattern – her cohorts were full of first-generation college students.

“The cohort was built because we wanted to offer a way to get a degree in teaching in Macomb County,” she said. “This program wasn’t designed for first-generation students, but by the nature of the program, it attracts many of them.

“Many choose the program in Macomb County program because of things like small class sizes and academic support when they’re in a small group.”

Shano believes those are the types of things that help many first-generation college students feel more comfortable and transition to college more easily.

“First-generation college students don’t always come with the language that students whose parents graduated from college do,” she said.

Things like school codes, admissions requirements and FAFSA might be foreign to many students. So for her, it’s about making it accessible for students and their families.

Shano also helps her students prepare a predictable schedule with set class times throughout their college career, which helps balance a work and class schedule.

“Scheduling classes does not have to be complicated,” she said. “This should be simple. Once they sit down with me, I take away all the mystery … there are no secrets, no puzzles – they completely understand what they need to do to earn a bachelor’s degree.”

“Once you take the mystery out of it, it puts people at ease. We’re all afraid of what we don’t know. This takes away the ‘don’t know’ part, and there’s no reason to be afraid anymore.”

Helping students to feel more comfortable and confident at school is what Shano believes brings students’ success and enables them to perform to their ability.

While Shano has attended numerous NACADA conferences, this was her first time presenting. She was honored in 2011 as a recipient of the organization's Outstanding New Adviser Certificate of Merit and has been nominated for the 2013 Outstanding Professional Academic Advising Award.