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Peer Advising Success

Lisa Woods
October 8, 2020

Eliza Woods smooths the way for other students.

During the end of every semester at University of Minnesota Duluth, many students are stressed. Homework has piled up and final tests are looming. It’s also time to register for the next semester’s classes. 

For a few, it’s the time when they find out the courses they need for their majors and minors don't fit the schedule. Sometimes there is a hold on their account, or they need to take one more class. Eliza (Liza) Woods, who was a peer advisor in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) office during her sophomore year, was ready to help.  

Advising Woes

“I remember one day when I was working in the CLA office. A student came rushing in, flustered. She needed to speak to an advisor.” 

Academic advising is a collaborative relationship between a student and an academic advisor. Advisors help students explore their academic interests, assist with developing and reviewing class schedules, and navigate ScheduleBuilder, Graduation Planner and APAS, the system that records classes and credits. They encourage students to connect with additional on campus-resources like the Academic Writing and Learning Center, UMD Counseling Services, Career and Internship Services, Kirby Student Center, and more.

Woods noticed the student’s frustration, “I did all I could do to help her.” The advisor was tied up in another appointment, but Woods assured the student she would be helped as soon as the previous appointment was over.  

“Everything in the office is put there on purpose to help the students feel at ease,” Woods said. “There are puzzles and comfy seats. Our staff would write fun questions on the white board like ‘what is your favorite season?’ to calm the students' nerves while waiting.” 

It wasn’t Woods’ role to help fix problems, but it was her job to schedule appointments and create a welcoming environment for students. That day, she and the student worked on a puzzle before the advisor was available. 

“When the student came back out of her meeting, I could see how at ease she was,” said Woods. “I felt good knowing I was a part of the relief she felt.”

Academic advisor Jayme Battaglia said, "Eliza was an important part of our office.  She could sometimes answer student questions and concerns without them even needing to see an advisor."

Busy Days

Woods is a junior majoring in anthropology and double minoring in Hispanic studies and international studies. She has taken on several roles in UMD student organizations. She was a football and basketball cheerleader and is currently on the UMD Cheer Team.

Finding a balance between school and extracurricular activities is important to Woods. “I know how to work in different situations because I learned the skills in my classes and during my job as a peer advisor.”  Her ability to be an active student and still do well academically earned her a scholarship from the College of Liberal Arts in spring 2020. “I value what I am learning, what I’m doing, and the people around me, and that’s why I think they considered me for the scholarship,” says Woods. 

Woods gives other students this advice, "Make connections with people." She enjoys meeting people with different life experiences. She also says, "People who have been at university know what everyone is going through, because they’ve been through it too." Some wise words from Woods are, “Reach out to people in different departments and organizations because they will give you some great advice when it comes to navigating college.”

Banner photo (above): Eliza Woods. The murals behind her were painted by Duluth artist Moira Villiard.

About the Anthropology, Sociology and Criminology program

About the History, Political Science and International Studies program

About the Hispanic Studies program

UMD student Myka Dixon, who is double majoring in communication and international studies, wrote this article. Myka works with Cheryl Reitan in University Marketing and Public Relations.