Prof Scott Banjavcic Comments to the BOT | April 27, 2023 (delivered by Prof Carley Bennett)

Hi, I’m Prof. Carley Bennett, incoming discipline chair for the Physics department. I am here tonight to address you on behalf of the Engineering Department Faculty whom I work closely with (and whose students I support). Prof. Scott Banjavcic, Engineering Discipline Chair asked me to give these remarks on his behalf (unfortunately, he couldn’t attend this evening).

Over the past 7-10 years the Engineering Department has been extraordinarily well supported by Part-Time Counselors Cheryl Baunbach-Caplan and Jessica Dyrek. Every year we are tasked with advising up to 500 students who are interested in the Associate’s in Engineering Science degree. Students pursuing engineering have a variety of different options: civil, mechanical, industrial, electrical, computer, computer science, biological, and chemical, that each have a specific set of coursework associated with being able to transfer and achieve the Bachelor’s Degree. Following the correct “path” in terms of coursework is the ONLY way to achieve success, and each of those types of engineering has a different set of required classes.

We are fortunate to have three full-time faculty in the department that are experts in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. If the advising was left to these faculty alone, one 30-minute advising appointment each semester for the students pursuing would take approximately 250 hours per semester. For reference, that would be over half of the semester’s office hours for every engineering faculty member spent solely on advising for the department. There is a long list of required activities to make a successful department: most importantly helping students with their courses, but also recruiting, program development/review, committees, and on and on. There is no conceivable way to spend half of the faculty time on advising.

Enter the counseling/advising department. We have been fortunate that Part-Time counselors Cheryl and Jessica (and others) have spearheaded course selection and counseling activities for the engineering students. The years and passion that it took for these two to become experts in our coursework, which is extremely nuanced, has exceeded a decade. They have spent many hours outside of work learning how to advise our students and counsel the needs of engineers (we have a broad range of neurodiverse students interested in our degree).

It is important to stress that the needs of these students extend outside of course selection, and the mental health challenges that we have seen since the pandemic have increased ten-fold. What Cheryl and Jessica do for our department is truly a labor of love, and it has had significant effect.
The result of their efforts has been an increase in the success rate of our Engineering Pathways students from 30% to over 40%. For reference, most top-tier engineering programs have a success rate of 30%, so 10% better than our peers is nothing short of a miracle. This kind of result isn’t possible without them.
The decision to eliminate Part-Time counselors will have a dramatic effect on our program. You cannot replace the decades of experience that these wonderful employees bring to our students.
As discipline chair, I would like to personally implore the Board of Trustees to put a price on the institutional knowledge that walks out the door if the plan that has been proposed by the administration is allowed to be implemented.

Please do not punish the stellar individuals that are diligently and passionately doing the work of this college on behalf of the students. Thank you!