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Adult Learner

4 Ways academic advisors help UMass Global students succeed

Academic Advisor - UMass Global

The path toward earning a college degree can take many twists and turns. Whether you’re returning to the classroom after a long hiatus, learning to juggle work and school, or any number of other real-life obstacles that inevitably interfere, every student faces challenges of some kind.

At UMass Global, we are fully committed to providing our students the help they need at every stage of their academic career. Our dedication to our students is unparalleled: 95 percent of alumni say UMass Global supported their needs as adult learners.

Academic advisors play a huge role in the success of our students. To better understand how they contribute to the university’s student support, we went straight to the source. Join us in a conversation with Marshall Pipkin and Camille Hunziker and learn more about their experiences as academic advisors.

What is an academic advisor?

While the definition varies depending on the institution, academic advisors at UMass Global are there to support students with anything and everything they need to thrive. This includes helping learners choose a degree and learning format, creating a personalized education plan based on their unique goals and encouraging them to stay on track when times get tough. Advisors and students meet via video conferencing, phone calls or in-person (for students near a campus location) and are in frequent communication via email.

As academic advisors for non-traditional students and adult learners, Pipkin and Hunziker are skilled at building relationships and solving problems. This includes things like de-escalating issues, staying in touch with students during a long break, checking progress on individual goals and helping new students adjust to college life.

“Our day-to-day duties are very dynamic,” Hunziker says. “‘Average’ is not really a word that we use.”

4 Ways academic advisors help adult learners thrive

As you can see, academic advisors provide support for students in several different circumstances. Let’s take a closer look at four of the most common ways they can help you reach your personal and academic goals.

1. They serve as the central hub for questions and concerns 

When asked to sum up the duties of an academic advisor, Pipkin puts it simply:


We’re the hub — you come to us to get things figured out.

He explains that much of his time is spent responding to students’ questions. If he doesn’t know the answer, he directs them to other people who can help.

Some of the most common queries academic advisors encounter are things like:

  • What major should I choose?
  • How many classes should I take at a time?
  • I’m struggling with a course and am falling behind — what should I do?
  • How long will it take to finish my degree?
  • I need to take time off does that mean I’ll never graduate?
  • How can I find ways to finance my education?
  • How do I get credit for my military service and experience?

With nearly 27 years of experience under his belt, Pipkin has seen it all — and yet, he still gets surprised with new challenges. “It’s astounding to me that after all this time, I still encounter things I’ve never dealt with,” he asserts.

Hunziker adds that a big part of an academic advisor’s job is developing a deep understanding of a student’s circumstances in order to provide personalized support. “We want to know what’s going on in your life, what you want from your college experience and what you’re struggling with so we can help mitigate those challenges,” she shares.

2. They connect students with support services and resources

In addition to their deep knowledge of programs and policies, academic advisors are also expert liaisons. They inform students about important resources and refer them to other professionals who are trained to help with specific issues.

UMass Global’s robust offering of dedicated student services includes:

With such a vast support network available to UMass Global students, it’s easy to forget about all of the helpful resources they have at their fingertips. But our academic advisors will help point you in the right direction whenever you’re in need.

3. They help students navigate challenging life developments

Each learner brings their unique circumstances to the classroom. While it’s true that 90 percent of UMass Global students work while completing a program, they might also be raising children, taking care of aging parents, moving, changing jobs, dealing with financial hardship or other time-consuming commitments.

“With non-traditional and adult students, sometimes school can’t always be the top priority,” Hunziker states. The academic advisors at UMass Global know this all too well, and they honor that reality and meet students where they are  in the moment.

For example, a student who is brand new to online classes and has several competing priorities may fare best by taking one class at a time until they feel comfortable with adding more. Regardless of your situation, an academic advisor can help you set a realistic pace that allows you to make progress without being overwhelmed.

Pipkin shares that while it is common for adult learners to pause classes for one reason or another, it has happened more frequently since the pandemic. “People often come to me in a panic because something in their personal lives have gone awry,” he shares candidly.


I assure students that it’s going to be ok. Taking time to grieve, heal, bond or rest is important, and it doesn’t mean you won’t finish your degree.

He goes on to say that “It is always a pleasure to inform students about our astonishingly generous policies. Typically, they have no idea they can take up to two years off and still be considered full-time.”

4. They cheer students on and celebrate wins

Hunziker feels one of the best parts of her job is getting to celebrate when things go right. Sometimes it makes all the difference for students, especially for those who are forging their own path with limited support at home. She explains that education means different things to different people and not all families see the value of a college degree in the same way.

“We are that little voice in the back of their head checking in, cheering them on and hopefully instilling confidence in themselves and their own abilities,” Hunziker shares. “More often than not, students are coming out victorious, and it’s such an honor to play a role in that.”

Pipkin echoes Hunziker’s sentiments and states that sharing in the joy of his students is incredibly rewarding, especially when he knows how many challenges they’ve had to overcome. “You really have to care about people to do this job. I want them all to succeed so badly,” he remarks.

Pipkin adds that while mustering empathy for his students comes naturally, it can be difficult to stop himself from taking on the weight of their problems as his own. “But on the other hand, I do feel blessed to have all the university support I need to help our students,” he concludes.

All things are possible with a strong culture of support

Whether your goal is to graduate in a certain timeframe, achieve a specific GPA or become the first person in your family to earn a college degree, you can expect your academic advisor to be there to support you every step of the way.

Outstanding support isn’t the only thing you can anticipate. Learn more in our article “What students can expect from UMass Global.”


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