University College transitions to virtual advising

The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the way the Marshall University College has taken on academic advising. The University College is a tool that provides learning support services and transitional programs. They also provide academic counseling for Marshall’s undecided students, conditionally admitted students, some pre-nursing students, transient students and many others.   

The academic counselors working with University College are currently working remotely but are available virtually through teams or phone appointments. 

T​h​e three academic counselors at the college, Robin Taylor, Robin Stafford and Patricia Gallagher spoke about how this transition has affected them and what changes they noticed from their students.   

Academic counselor Robyn Stafford has been with the University College for over two years now. For her, the hardest part of the transition is the lack of facetime with students.  

“I think that they [virtual appointments] can be personal. I mean, they can be good, but I think it’s really hard to duplicate that interaction that you would have with somebody face to face,” said Stafford. “We would have students in our office all the time, I know myself and several advisors would have students just stopping by to kind of check-in, and former students would come in… just to kind of catch us up on everything that is going on in their life.” 

The lack of personal interaction is what she misses most about the virtual appointments.   

“I have been super impressed with students who have remained resilient in the face of so much unknown and so much change, and having to take classes virtually or online… I think the resilience of everyone or just the determination or desire to dig in and make it work has been really cool to see from everyone, from students and from faculty,” said Stafford.  

She explained that this whole transition has been a “learning curve” for the University College and that she loves being a part of a University that cares about students…. and will still carry on. 

Robin Taylor has been working at the University College since 2014. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in counseling from Marshall University. She enjoys working with students who are discovering the possibilities that their future holds.  

“I really like working with these students who are discovering what they want to do… I really like exploring what their options are, and working like, for instance, with career education to help them explore even further,” said Taylor.   

“Getting all of the technology to work correctly, where everybody in the country had to make such a quick switch, that we had a lot of things at Marshall already in place that made it really really easy, but there were just a few little things that we had to kind of fine-tune,” Taylor said.  

Even though she has had some trouble with the technology this past year, Taylor believes she has found some positive points to the whole situation. 

“I am finding that students are getting more comfortable about scheduling themselves onto my calendar to be able to talk with me,” said Taylor. “It’s easier in a sense to stay disconnected the way we’ve got things set up now, but I’ve found that… Where we all are kind of disconnected from our usual routines that you’ll see more people reaching out to have a connection, somebody to listen to.”  

Patricia Gallagher has been at Marshall Since 1984 and has had previous work in the Career Services Center and the Office of the Bursar.  

In her experience with this transition, she has discovered that more virtual options are great for some of her students. 

“I probably had every bit as good attendance… We offered students teams meetings with video or phone appointments, and I’ve discovered that my advisees are shy and don’t like to be on camera, so they actually prefer the phone appointments,” Gallagher said. 

She is glad that her attendance has increased but explained that with these phone appointments, it has been hard to get to know people she has spoken with all semester because she doesn’t know what many look like.   

“Overall, I think the students are still missing the in-person appointments; they like that personal touch more so than we had thought,” Gallagher said.  

The environment she explains may not be the same; however, “I think we are able to be successful and to work with the alternatives that we have at the present and make it work,” Gallagher said. “Do not be afraid to reach out, don’t wait, thinking a problem will take care of itself. We encourage you to get in touch with us just as soon as you have questions or issues because the earlier you get in touch with us, the easier we can help you solve it.”  


For further information about the University College or any Academic Counselors, visit ​ or contact Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Director of University College, Sherri Stepp, at 304-696-7038, or [email protected].​   


Alaina Lester can be contacted at [email protected].