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Academic advisor leaves college

by Christopher Gavin / Beacon Correspondent • January 17, 2013

The Academic Advising Center started the spring semester with one fewer assistant director following the resignation of Jessica Biag. She announced that she was stepping down in December, leaving the remaining staff to take over her nearly 400 former advisees, according to Lynn Butkovsky, director of academic advising. 

Applications for a new assistant director are being reviewed, but the center’s officials are not sure when a replacement will be hired, according to Butkovsky. 

 “It’s impossible to predict when we will have a replacement, but we hope to have someone on board as soon as possible,” Butkovsky said in an email interview. 

 Assistant directors conduct student advising services and help plan programs, such as orientation events, Butkovsky said. She said that without Biag, there are only two assistant directors.

“Rest assured, no student will go without advising assistance,” she said. “We will all pitch in to cover [Biag’s] advisees and make sure they get any help they might need.”  

Sophomore students formerly advised by Biag will still be transitioned over to a faculty adviser, per department policy, in the next couple of weeks, Butkovsky said.

Biag, known to many as Jessica Kim before her recent name change, announced her departure to her advisees by email Dec. 14. She employed by the college for over two years, according to Butkovsky. Biag did not state her reason for leaving Emerson and could not be reached for comment. 

Butkovsky declined to comment on why Biag left.  

Alexa Jackson, associate vice president for human resources, described Emerson’s hiring process.

“Normally our hiring process would consist of a hiring manager contacting our employment area,” Jackson said. “At that time, a posting is usually listed [on the Emerson website].” 

Emerson uses People Admin, an applicant tracking system that can highlight candidates with the correct qualifications, according to Jackson. Select individuals are then interviewed by phone, and some are called in meet in person, she said. 

“The hiring manager ultimately makes the hiring decision,” Jackson said. 

Jackson declined to comment about why Biag left. 

The center requires assistant directors to have a master’s degree in higher education, student affairs, or a related field, along with prior advising or counseling experience, according to Butkovsky. 

This does not make the search for a replacement more difficult, she said. 

“Since I started over 12 years ago, we have only ever hired people with a master’s degree for the position,” she said. 

“We posted the open position before the holiday break,” Butkovsky said.  

Assistant directors of academic advising guide groups of freshman and sophomore students, and help to instruct and register all incoming students, according to Butkovsky. 

Biag primarily advised marketing communication and journalism students, Butkovsky said. 

Devon Ott, a sophomore journalism major and one of Biag’s former advisees, said she was surprised to learn about Biag’s resignation, despite her previous experiences with her.

“Every time I met with her, I felt as though I didn’t get anything accomplished, and that was when I could get a meeting,” Ott said in an email interview.  

Ott said she thinks the email announcing Biag’s leave was inadequate. 

“The situation was not properly addressed in the slightest,” she said. “Emerson should have handled this by A, telling students earlier and B, telling them who would be replacing Jessica.” 

Stephie Wheeler, a sophomore marketing communication major who also had Biag as an adviser, said she is concerned about the repercussions of Biag’s departure from the college. 

“My one small worry is that I have a lot of changes I’m planning to make this semester as well as next year in terms of academics,” she said. “I’m hoping things in the advising center will be organized enough to help me soon.”

Butkosvky could not be reached for immediate comment regarding student concern.