With hundreds of courses to choose from, dozens of programs to major in, and a whole slew of new vocabulary to learn, the switch from high school to college academics can be dizzying.
Enter Trinity’s Office of Academic Advising. Led by the office’s director, Lapétra Bowman, Ph.D., the team of six dedicated academic advisers begin guiding new students through Trinity’s curriculum before they even step foot on campus.
This new office, formed over the past two years, is a result of Starting Strong, Trinity’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP is a component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process the University undergoes every 10 years by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. After identifying a goal through the QEP—that first-year students will become more aware of and engaged in practices that lead to success—Trinity committed significant resources toward improving advising, teaching, and academic support at the University.
In years past, first-year students had met with faculty advisers in their intended majors. But with dozens of faculty advisers spread across many departments, there were varying levels of understanding about general academic and Pathways’ requirements at Trinity as well as the intricacies of developing a degree path for exploring students.
With the QEP underway alongside the creation of a Retention and Graduation task force by President Danny Anderson, Bowman was tasked with restructuring academic advising at Trinity. In the summer of 2020, Trinity officially shifted from a faculty advising model to a total-intake advising model. Professional academic advisers officially began to onboard and advise first-year students, working with them until their major declaration. (Students will subsequently be reassigned to a faculty adviser in their respective major academic areas of interest.) These new academic advisers serve as a touch point for incoming students and as a resource for students registering for classes during the summer in preparation for fall and taking on the process of exploring and declaring their major.
Bowman recently won the NACADA Outstanding Advising Administrator Award for her work.
“It’s important to understand that advising is its own pedagogy, its own curriculum, and it has to be studied,” Bowman says. “It has to be learned. When you have individuals who have actively sought out advising work, who are committed to working with students in this capacity, what you have are individuals who are committed, hardworking, dedicated, inquisitive, collaborative in nature, and supportive. And I could not ask for a better team.”
Who is on this stand-out team? Meet Trinity’s new academic advisers, who all agree that proactive and holistic advising is at the heart of beginning any academic journey.
Sinclair Preston Ceasar III
Ceasar meets students with empathy and humor, and his goal is to empower students to think critically, adapt to challenging situations, and build the educational experience of their dreams. He has worked in residential life, in service learning, and for a variety of nonprofit organizations as well as with global wellness companies. Ceasar works with students primarily interested in biology, biochemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science, neuroscience, and physics; he also specializes in working with health professions students.
Soleil Gaffner '19
Gaffner is dedicated to caring for the student’s whole success, including mental, emotional, and physical health. She approaches her advising meetings with tools to help guide a student through difficult decisions, identity exploration, and academic development. After graduating from Trinity, Gaffner worked in San Antonio’s local nonprofit system as an administrator, college access adviser, and grant writer. Though a generalist, Gaffner primarily works with students interested in the liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, and health professions.
Julia Poage '19
Poage looks for ways to support students academically, emotionally, and socially. As a Trinity alumna, Poage loves connecting students with both academic and extracurricular on-campus resources. After graduating from Trinity, Poage served for two years as the college adviser for Douglas MacArthur High School in San Antonio, assisting high school seniors with college applications, financial aid, and post-secondary planning. Like Gaffner, Poage is a generalist but works primarily with students interested in the liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, and health professions.
Reese helps students explore the Trinity curriculum to reach their personal and academic goals. She has worked at Trinity for more than 17 years, supporting students in the past as a records specialist, graduation coordinator, and degree audit coordinator in the Office of the Registrar. Reese works with students interested in engineering science, mathematics, mathematical finance, and programs in the Neidorff School of Business, though she is well-versed in all of the programs Trinity offers. She also assists students interested in health professions.
Romero’s advising approach is student-centered and solution-focused. She empowers students to identify and build on their own individual interests, talents, and strengths. As a first-generation graduate with more than 10 years of experience in higher education, Romero encourages students to discover what success means for them and how they want to impact the world around them. She primarily works with students interested in biology, biochemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science, neuroscience, physics, and health professions.
Katie Welch '18
As a first-generation graduate, Welch is dedicated to helping students learn to navigate their college experience and connect with resources on campus. After graduating from Trinity, Welch spent two years as a college adviser with the Trinity University College Advising Corps. She worked with students at Fox Tech High School on postsecondary planning that included college and financial aid options, scholarships, and career and major exploration. While a generalist, Welch also specializes in advising students interested in engineering science, the Neidorff School of Business, and mathematics and mathematical finance.
This team of advisers had a busy summer, helping more than 670 Trinity students—more than 100 students per adviser!—prepare for their first semester on campus.
“We hope that the advisers are oftentimes one of the first people a student might trust on campus,” Bowman says. “Academic advising is so many things. It’s not just about picking classes, but it’s also about understanding who the student is academically, who the student is personally, and making the connections between those two spaces. Helping students pivot when they need to, helping students troubleshoot and rise from the ashes when they have had a moment where they just felt really beaten down. We’re there to remind students how amazing and resilient they are. We are here to teach them how to pivot and adapt accordingly.
“Most importantly,” Bowman continues, “we are here to teach students how to connect their personal interests and values to their academic interests and aspirations, and to truly engage in the process of self-discovery through curricular inquiry.”
The first photo is of Sinclair Preston Ceasar III advising a student in his office. Academic advisers offer in-person and virtual options for advising.