SoLA Forum: Students Speak out on Advising and Curriculum Concerns

By Karen Flores, Asst. Features Editor

The student representative vice presidents of the School of Liberal Arts, Lily Malone and Emilia O’Neill, conducted an open forum on Wednesday Nov. 2 to discuss student concerns and thoughts about the school. 

Earlier in the semester, a student survey was sent out by the vice presidents where students were able to anonymously submit responses, which would become topics of discussion and conversation at the forum. 

Cory Blad, dean of the School of Liberal Arts, wrote in an email to The Quadrangle that the only way for the faculty to know what the students need is through communication. 

“It is irresponsible to assume that I, or any non-student, has a full grasp of the student experience. So how can we better understand how a respective student is experiencing the School of Liberal Arts and Manhattan College? Through communication and outreach,” Blad wrote. “Forums like the one organized by the student vice presidents of SoLA, are just one of several ways we are working to ensure that we have as good of an understanding of the student experience as we can.” 

O’Neill is a double major in psychology and Spanish with a minor in digital arts and humanities. Malone is a senior communications major with a concentration in public relations and a minor in political science. The two vice presidents had a meeting with Cory Blad prior to the forum. 

O’Neill said that their main goal is to be able to communicate with Blad on the needs of the students and ensure that their voices are heard.

“For every school, there’s two VP’s and they’re expected to host a forum every semester. So it’s our responsibility to work together to communicate with the dean of our School, Dean Blad, and be the liaison between the students and the administration to make their voices heard,” O’Neill said. “We took the opportunity to have a meeting with Dean Blad beforehand and with his help, pushed the survey and email communications out to the students to then provide another opportunity to voice further concerns.” 

During the forum, one of the most prominent concerns was about the advising being given to students not catering to their specific needs. 

Linn Zapffe, a senior psychology major, said that while she understands this could be difficult, having a bit of personalization in the advice being given by faculty advisors would have been better throughout her years here at MC.

“I hope that every student can get more advice that is catered to their needs, or what they want to do in the future and that it isn’t so generic,” Zapffe said. “But there might also be things advisors don’t have the knowledge about, so maybe if they have more of a network, they can send students to people who will know more about this or that career path.” 

Blad wrote that getting specific feedback from students is extremely helpful towards making improvements in different areas like advising. 

“Manhattan College advising is layered and encompasses faculty, staff and offices within and outside of SoLA,” Blad wrote. “We are always working to better coordinate between faculty advisors, the Dean’s office, and the many other advising groups on campus. Specific feedback is incredibly helpful in navigating this ongoing improvement.”

Students also had concerns about the classes they were taking within their curriculums. O’Neill said that she and Malone hope to be able to increase transparency between the faculty and students about the reasons why certain courses must be taken. 

“Overall, one of the interesting things we found when looking at the responses was how many people were questioning, ‘What am I doing? Why am I taking this course?’ It’s important to make that clear and transparent between administration, faculty and students about why we’re doing these things, why it’s beneficial to us,” O’Neill said. “It’s important for students to recognize that MC is a liberal arts college and when you’re in the School of Liberal Arts, there is a holistic approach to an overall education same as in the other schools.” 

The School of Liberal Arts hopes to work with the vice presidents of the other schools on campus to facilitate campus wide concerns raised by students. 

“We should have more of a cohesive effort to have everyone come together and not make it so specialized to specific schools,” Malone said. 

“It’ll be beneficial for us all to kind of debrief together and kind of synthesize all of the concerns that we’ve heard and to see what are common denominators between all the schools that might help find a solution to a bigger concern,” O’Neill said. 

Blad believes forums like these will aid in the communication between students and faculty and hopes students reach out if necessary. 

“Along with this forum and the accompanying survey, we are working to make sure students have every opportunity to get information and to provide feedback,” Blad wrote. “I have open office hours every Monday from 10 a.m. to 10:45 and we have an outstanding group of students leading the Liberal Arts Mentor Program (LAMP), which is a student-to-student mentoring program in its first semester. I am looking forward to hosting a student forum in the Spring and am always happy to talk regardless of the venue. All of these opportunities are only effective if students engage with and access them. Our hope is that student-led initiatives will help encourage that.”