The University Record, October 2, 1995

‘Advising is critical,’ says Nurse

By Jane R. Elgass

Esrold Nurse SOARed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he’s set his sights high at the University of Michigan.

The new LS&A assistant dean for student academic affairs is firmly committed to making the academic advising system in the College something that will “delight our students,” and show that the staff and faculty take seriously a support service that can have a large impact on students’ lives here and their decisions for life after college.

Nurse arrived at the U-M just in time to participate in the summer’s final orientation session and Welcome Week, and felt much like a new student himself.

After having difficulty obtaining a uniqname because he didn’t have his Social Security card—staff members accompanying him and vouching for him did not prevail—and similar difficulty obtaining library cards for his family—nothing with a current address except his lease—he “knew what new students are experiencing.”

Nurse’s most recent post at Wisconsin was associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and director of Summer Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR), a two-day multi-faceted program for new students that he developed. SOAR brought some 6,500 Madison students and their parents or guests to campus over a nine-week period.

He’s proud of his work on SOAR and feels that students who participated “feel good about the orientation and advising they received.” Nurse says about 97 percent of the first-year Madison students took part in SOAR and that most of the parents also attended.

He’s also proud of a very successful mentoring program that he developed and directed at Wisconsin when he was an assistant dean in the College of Letters and Sciences.

That task gave him experience in working with faculty across units in a complex institution similar to the U-M, experience he found challenging and exciting.

How does someone whose undergraduate degree is in English literature end up in advising? Primarily thanks to the individuals who advised him during his college career.

“Advising is critical,” he says. “It’s the way the students find out about the University. It’s an umbrella under which many things fall, a conduit through which information passes from advisers to students, for sorting out the complexities of life and making students’ educational experience here the very best it can be for them.

“I know how it helped me, and I relied a great deal on my advisers. They not only helped me succeed academically, but helped me sort out what I wanted to do with my life, helped me understand the value of a liberal arts degree.”

Nurse also finds personal satisfaction in advising students, something he may not have a great deal of time for at Michigan, at least in the short term.

“It’s gratifying to have first-hand experience in helping students. You realize what it’s all about when former students call you and tell you how you helped them. Sometimes you give them the options and possibly a nudge, and they take you up on it and are successful. I take that influence which we have as advisers very seriously. Students are the reason we’re here. I enjoy working with them and learning from them. Our influence on them is a special responsibility. This should be the best four years of their lives. We need to make certain that happens.”

Many of the advising situations that will be brought to Nurse’s attention will be “difficult cases, disciplinary cases dealing with such things as plagiarism and cheating. However, even in these cases there are opportunities for advising. I’m always mindful that this is an educational institution and as such when these opportunities present themselves, we should embrace them.”