Today@Sam Article

Here to Help: SAM Center

Sept. 3, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

"Here to Help" highlights the many student services available at SHSU. Often these services are provided at little or no cost with a Bearkat OneCard. If your department would like to be featured email

Sam Center Counselor

Story by Mikah Boyd

Going to college introduces students to new experiences and responsibilities as they pursue their education independently, which can leave some feeling a bit overwhelmed when it comes to lining out their schedule and workload each semester. To alleviate this burden, the SAM Center is here to help Sam Houston State University students plan each step in their educational careers and ensure that they select classes related to their degree plan.

Students can make appointments with their advisors through their MySam page and choose between an in-person or online meeting. Ashley Pruitt, assistant director of advising handling all virtual sessions, and Stella Vay, associate director of advising handling all in-person sessions, work together to guide students through degree counseling.

With the semester underway, Vay and Pruitt say that now is the time to start planning and getting ready for the next round of registration. Advising is required for freshmen and graduating seniors, but all students should touch base with their advisors each semester to make sure they aren’t wasting time and money on a course that does not work toward their degree plan.

Sam Center Counselor meeting with studentWhile everyone should meet with their advisors at least through email, appointments fill up fast. Pruitt and Vay explained that some departments are already seeing an influx of appointments.

“We tell students, you meet with us around Labor Day and Valentine’s Day,” Pruitt said. “That way you’ll know when you can register.”

Degree planning is not all that the SAM Center does for students. They also provide support and advice throughout the semester regarding when and how to drop a difficult class and what steps they will need to take to move forward and be successful in the future.

This process begins when students first come to SHSU and plot out either their first student schedule or are checking to see if their courses from another university will transfer. By advising students during these early stages, the SAM Center starts the process of welcoming students and giving them a new place to call home.

“The SAM Center is the first point of interaction for a lot of students, so we’re here to help connect them to other resources on campus,” Vay said.

Sam Center reception areaStudents often come to their academic advisor when they are feeling overwhelmed and lost in their coursework. The advisors listen and try to work out a way to resolve any issues. When the advisors are faced with topics out of their expertise, they then refer students to the people that can give them the proper aid that they need.

Counselors at the SAM Center know that if a student is not happy and healthy, they are less likely to succeed academically; so, they take a special approach to advising.

“We practice holistic advising, so we focus on the student and what’s best for the student,” Pruitt said. “We’re not an assembly line.”

This approach has helped many students in recent years with the numerous challenges that have arose, from hurricanes and flooding to COVID-19 and online learning.  

Another way that they help students do well in their courses is by meeting with departments between advising sessions to discuss changes they may have to their courses and degree plans. After these meetings, advisors begin the process of translating the departmental jargon into more generalized terms for incoming freshmen and those who have little experience degree planning.

“We’re used to that language now, but as high schooler or from a two-year college, it’s not the same. The language is different,” Vay said. “Helping students process that and also prepping our advisors on some issues that might arise with a first-time freshman is important.”

Academic advisement for the Spring 2021 semester begins on Wednesday, Sept. 8, and registration begins in November. Students wanting to schedule an advising appointment can follow this link to the SAM Center web page to schedule an appointment. After completing advising, students can view the registration schedule for each classification and finalize their plan.

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