Pre-Graduate and Pre-Professional Advising has expanded our impact in the 2020-21 academic year, maximizing the benefits of virtual platforms while maintaining our commitment to highly specialized one-on-one advising for students pursuing graduate or professional school or prestigious fellowships. In the last year, PGPP held 2315 advising sessions, a 31% increase over AY20 and a 21% increase of AY19—the last representative year in which we were fully staffed and not transitioning to remote services.
The PGPP team experienced growth across the entire unit, with especially remarkable gains in Pre-Graduate Advising, which saw a 206% increase over AY19, and Prestigious Fellowships Advising, which saw a 21% increase over AY19. Pre-Health Advising increased 14% over AY19. Informing this dramatic increase is the shift to almost exclusively on-line services.
We discovered in summer 2020 that we could use the BlueJeans interface for effective group advising encounters, especially in Pre-Health, for which demand for just-in-time advising is high. In open online sessions, students could consult advisors—and each other—about issues related to their professional school readiness. By teaming up in these daily drop-ins, advisors could see more students and serve them more quickly than we could in conventional office-based drop-ins. The BlueJeans interface and multiple advisors created a group space where students could learn from each other’s questions but still meet advisors in break-out spaces for more personal conversations.
The virtual platform also allowed us to connect with campus partners and alumni to expand our program offerings. The convenience of virtual meetings enticed students from their homes across the world to attend information sessions and to hear from panels of fellowship recipients and graduate students who joined from wherever they were currently studying or conducting research. Prestigious Fellowships hosted representatives from the Marshall Scholarship and Fulbright as well as panels of previous award recipients, including the entire slate of Georgia Tech Knight-Hennessy Scholars pursuing advanced degrees at Stanford. Pre-Graduate Advising worked closely with the Naugle Comm Lab staff to host writing workshops and bootcamps and joined forces with the Language Institute to plan a workshop series for international students considering application to graduate school. PGPP collaborated with UROP, OMED, and several other units within and beyond OUE. In May, four PGPP advisors co-presented at the GTAAN Best Practices conference.
PGPP also grew as a team in the past year, our first full academic year as an independent unit. Mariah Liggins joined the team as Pre-Health Advisor, and Monique Morris expanded her range of responsibilities to include financial reconciliation, Pcard management, student hiring, and LOE advisement, in addition to her existing tasks as PGPP coordinator. With more frequent check-ins prompted by the uncertainties of the pandemic, we discovered new dimensions to each other’s responsibilities and new ways we could support each other in peak times.
Throughout the momentous 2020-21 academic year, PGPP lived our Institutional values of prioritizing students, celebrating collaboration, nurturing the well-being of our community, and striving for excellence.
Pre-Health Peer Advising Program Hits Stride
Despite being hired, trained, and managed entirely through a virtual space, the three Pre-Health Peer Advisors of AY21 expanded the operations of the student staff to provide agile, just-in-time programming for students preparing for and applying to health professional schools. Based on insights gleaned from one-on-one advising sessions, the team developed a student-led Staying on Track workshop series that tackled “All About the MCAT,” “Summer Programs,” and “Online Professionalism,” as well as five other timely topics for pre-health students.
The peer advising team is uniquely positioned to leverage large-scale peer support in other recent initiatives. For Mock Interview Ambassadors, current students receive training to support current health professional school applicants with practice interviews. The Application Sibs program is modeled on Big Brother/Big Sister mentoring (now gender-neutral “Sibs”) to pair new applicants with students or alumni who have already applied to professional programs. The Honeystone Project asks experienced students to submit anonymous advice to newcomers to Pre-Health Advising.
Pre-Health Peer Advisors meet weekly with Assistant Director for Pre-Health Advising Francisco Castelan to discuss programming, review any new questions that emerge in one-on-one advising sessions, and plan communications for events and announcements. With oversight provided by the assistant director, the team manages Pre-Health Advising’s social media accounts and creates and distributes fliers for upcoming events through a Canvas site with 1854 active participants. The group also monitors the Pre-Health Piazza page where more than 2500 queries have been answered within a few hours.
In AY21, peer advisors convened 47 one-on-on student meetings in addition to coordinating self-directed events and workshop sessions led by professional advisors. They were present at FASET sessions and provided a student perspective at most Pre-Health events.
The Pre-Health Peer Advising program illustrates our commitment to innovation, service excellence, and responsible stewardship.
Prestigious Fellowships Advisor Karen Mura led Georgia Tech students and alumni into new territory in her first full year at Georgia Tech; 2020-2021 saw an increase in applicants for major scholarships and an increase in awards that Georgia Tech students had not previously pursued.
The Georgia Tech applicant pool for Fulbright saw a major expansion the last year with 38 institutionally endorsed applicants, up from 16 in the previous cycle. Of the 38, we had 14 semifinalists and 5 recipients (up from 2), one of whom declined the award to pursue another opportunity. Another 4 applicants were alternates. Important to note for this application cycle is that the applicant pool increased nationally, but the numbers of awards declined. The success of Georgia Tech students in this climate attests to the quality of the applications and the campus support.
Also remarkable in Fellowships Advising this year was the number of new awards that Georgia Tech students pursued and received. These include Fulbright Canada Mitacs Globalink Program (2 recipients), Erasmus Mundus International Masters (2 recipients), and Data Science for the Social Good Internship at University of Warwick, England (1 recipient).
Contributing to the increase in applicants and interest in new awards was intentional outreach conducted via bi-weekly newsletters, regular communication with academic advisors, and direct contact with specific student populations.
Advances in Prestigious Fellowships Advising demonstrate how we celebrate collaboration, champion innovation, thrive on diversity, and nurture the well-being of our community.