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Undergraduate Advising and Learning Communities (UA&LC)

Assistant Provost and Dean: Pamela R. Marsh-Williams
609 Goodell Building, (413) 545-6493

Undergraduate Advising and Learning Communities (UA&LC) is the collegiate-level unit providing academic services and programming for the university’s largest and most diverse population of students: those who have not yet declared a major or who wish to explore a new or additional one. Staff and program instructors are committed to facilitating each undergraduate student’s intellectual development, degree progress, and academic engagement. The unit also leads a campus network of chief undergraduate advisers and academic deans to foster cross-campus collaborations and to strengthen the effectiveness of all advisers.

All undergraduate schools and colleges are assisted by the UA&LC in the planning and implementation of a variety of academic learning communities. The most common are residential academic programs and seminars for first-year students that offer a wide array of academic options to enhance learning, community building, student development, retention, and graduation. Additional services include referrals to campus resources and interventions for students facing academic challenges.

Programmatic and enrollment services for students participating in the Domestic Exchange, Five College Interchange, and Thatcher Language House are also provided.

The academic advising, learning support, and program areas included within UA&LC are: Academic Programs for First Year Students (deciding upon a major), Academic Standing and Student Advancement, Academic Advising Link (Library Learning Commons), Domestic Exchange, Five College Interchange, Residential Academic Programs (RAP), Thatcher Language House, and Undergraduate Advising.

Academic Programs for First-Year Students

Director: Kathy Weilerstein
609 Goodell Building, (413) 545-6218

In addition to the personalized academic advising and dean’s services available to all students who have not declared a major, the Undergraduate Advising and Learning Communities staff offer specific academic programs and events to enhance the experience of first-year students and support their discovery of appropriate options. During this exploratory period, students gather information, sharpen their academic focus, follow an academic plan, and benefit from the resources that are available to aid them in their decision making and degree progress.

The university offers a General Education curriculum that forms the foundation for all its undergraduate degree programs. This curriculum is especially helpful to first-year students who want to explore their interests and abilities before making a commitment to a major. Many students, regardless of their major status, wish to participate in an academic learning community and select from a variety of General Education options through the university’s Residential Academic Programs ( and under “Other Academic Opportunities and Services” elsewhere in this Guide). Following are some of the programs and activities that target students who have not declared a major.

Curricular Opportunities

Focus Residential Academic Programs are offered in a variety of residence halls designated for first-year students. In this residential setting, students work cooperatively on assignments, begin fulfilling degree requirements, and become active members of an academic learning community. Students also benefit from interactions with peer mentors and participation in social and co-curricular activities that enhance their experience and adjustment to the university. During the fall semester, students have two or three classes together. One or two are small classes taught in the residential area and the other may be a lecture class taught on the main campus. All Focus RAP students enroll in OASIS, a one-credit seminar for first-year students, taught by an adviser from Undergraduate Advising.

The OASIS seminar (EDUC 125) is designed for students with a variety of learning profiles. This highly structured seminar helps students develop and improve their tools to be successful learners in a large and complex university environment. OASIS also helps students decide upon and advance toward a major area of study, and provides opportunities to become better acquainted with campus resources. In the process, students gain confidence in their talents, abilities, and interests.

Participation in the seminar provides students with an opportunity to develop academic skills, behaviors, and attitudes necessary for success, to make connections with a peer group, to refine their academic plan, and to work closely with an academic adviser, who serves as the seminar instructor. OASIS First-Year Seminar is available to all students entering the university without a declared major.

Special Advising Events

Majors Fair
Staff members from Undergraduate Advising provide students with a Majors Fair during the fall semester to showcase the more than one hundred different academic programs offered on campus. Students visit with faculty and student representatives to discuss an assortment of majors and an array of career opportunities connected to the various fields of study. This event attracts large numbers of students who are exploring major options or seeking easy access to information about second majors, minors, and certificate programs.

Windows of Opportunity
During the spring semester, Undergraduate Advising works closely with selected academic departments to highlight their programs in a variety of intimate settings. Students can attend panel presentations or meet in small groups to speak informally with faculty, upper-class students or alumni. The Windows of Opportunity program gives students a chance to become better informed about less-commonly known majors and learn about career, internship, community service learning, scholarships, and undergraduate research options that are available campus wide.

Academic Standing and Student Advancement

Associate Dean: Dr. Kregg Strehorn
607 Goodell Building, (413) 545-5103

The Academic Dean’s Office within Undergraduate Advising serves all students who have not yet declared a major as well as those who have declared the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) major. The academic dean has been delegated authority by the university’s faculty to monitor students’ academic progress, to make decisions on academic discipline, to grant exceptions to academic policy and regulations, and to forward student appeals to the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Admissions and Records.

The academic dean and his staff also support student advancement toward the declaration of a major and completion of an undergraduate degree by providing several specialized services for various groups of undeclared students. These services include frequent meetings with an adviser to monitor progress toward their degrees, regular informational email communications, and printed materials to help students find alternate paths to their academic goals.
Undergraduate Advising

Director: KD Maynard
615 Goodell Building, (413) 545-2191

All first-year students who are not directly admitted to one of the university’s schools or colleges follow a personalized academic degree plan and receive advising and undergraduate dean’s services through Undergraduate Advising.

Students first meet with advisers during New Student Orientation, before their first semester. At this time, students have an opportunity to express their interests and goals, learn about the array of majors available on campus, and begin to form an academic plan.

Advisers assist students in making informed choices about campus programs and course selection and guide them to the many academic opportunities the university offers. A variety of Residential Academic Programs (RAPs) are available to incoming first-year students who enter in the fall semester. Students are assisted in identifying a RAP that is designed specifically for their individual interests or potential major.

Students learn about the various requirements related to majors, colleges, and the university as a whole. They work closely with their adviser to choose courses for their first semester in order to achieve a balanced workload, meet General Education requirements, and prerequisites for potential majors. Students are encouraged to continue their relationship with an adviser during the academic year as they work together on strategies to make progress on their personalized academic degree plan until a major is declared.

Advisers also help students develop strategies to overcome academic difficulties, such as a cumulative average below 2.000 and challenges choosing a major. Students learn how to utilize university resources, monitor their academic progress, and pursue special learning opportunities.

Undergraduate Advising staff members also coordinate services and campus referrals to the university’s other schools, colleges, and programs including Commonwealth College, Learning Resource Center, Writing Center, Disability Services, Athlete Support Services, and ALANA (African, Latino/a, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American) student services.

The first-year program for Undergraduate Advising is designed to facilitate the successful transition into an academic major department and respective school or college before the end of the student’s sophomore year.

Academic Advising Link

Associate Director: Sheila Brennan
W.E.B. Du Bois Library Learning Commons

Sponsored by Undergraduate Advising, the Academic Advising Link (AAL) is operated by trained advising staff available to assist students, both declared and undeclared, with a variety of advising needs. Located in the Learning Commons of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library, AAL is conveniently open during evening and weekend hours to provide assistance to students when most other offices on campus are closed. It operates on a walk-in basis. Students can check in with the staff person on duty about a variety of topics including SPIRE navigation, Degree Progress Report interpretation, course recommendations, and special learning opportunities. By working closely with chief undergraduate advisers and undergraduate deans from all of the campus schools and colleges, the AAL connects students with the right academic resources and support necessary for success.

Domestic Exchange and Five College Interchange Programs

Associate Director: Sheila Brennan
614 Goodell Building, (413) 545-5351

These two programs extend a student’s educational opportunity beyond the campus.
Through the Five College Interchange Program, a university student can experience a smaller classroom setting and participate in a wide range of academic programs offered at four local liberal arts institutions (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges) at no extra cost. Through the National Student Exchange Program, students can experience a different geographical and academic setting at one of the 180 participating colleges and universities across the country. The University of Massachusetts Student Exchange (UMSE) allows eligible University of Massachusetts Amherst students to attend the Universities of Massachusetts Boston, Dartmouth or Lowell for one or two semesters. All programs offer opportunities for students to work with a diverse range of faculty members, to gain access to information from the facilities at another campus, and to take advantage of the many academic and cultural programs that are offered locally and nationally.

Students interested in participating in either program should contact the Domestic Exchange Program and Five College Interchange Program Office for information and advice.