By SARAH GRAMMER
On Oct 12, 2015 new Director of Academic Services, R. Wesley Hillyard III, began his first day back at the University of Mary Washington after graduating from the institution in 2005. So far Hillyard is still adjusting to the position, and goals for the future of the department are not being discussed other than its split into two departments.
As the Academic and Career services plans to create two separate departments, one focusing specifically on academic services while the other focuses on career and professional development, the date of this split is unknown.
According to Hillyard, Academic Services is taking time now to figure out how to better help UMW’s students. “This as an opportunity to look at the best way to serve students and faculty to provide additional advising resources,” Hillyard said.
Hillyard said that currently the department is, “Working with our students that are on probation and academic recovery to get them back in good academic standing.” This service is not new to the department, but seems to be their focus for right now.
Hillyard also said that, “We are looking at strengthening our transfer program, specifically for first semester students to make it a more impactful experience for them, some of that is going to be developing relationships with community colleges so we can start helping them transition earlier and make them feel more a part of the university from the beginning.”
Thus far in the office, Hillyard said he will spend time daily, “Learning new things and becoming familiar with the University processes and procedures, as well as assisting the staff as we go through spring registration.”
On his return to UMW, Hillyard said, “It does feel like coming home.” Since his arrival, Hillyard has spent time talking with not only old colleagues and professors but also with current students. “I’ve been meeting with students and enjoy hearing about the positive similarities between their experiences [at UMW] and mine,” Hillyard said.
While discussing his reasons for returning to UMW, Hillyard said. “It has always been sort of a dream of mine to come back because it fueled me towards a career in higher education.” While attending UMW, Hillyard was employed as both a Resident Assistant and afterwards a Head Resident. The positive experience he had with his advisors, professors and student services inspired him to attend UVA to get his Masters of Education in Student Affairs. He graduated from UVA in 2009.
Hillyard said that as a Residence Life employee, “I know how significant out of classroom experience can be for our students and how that experience can also impact students overall academic success at the university.” Since receiving his MS, Hillyard has spent time at JMU as a full time, hall director, living in a residence hall on campus for 2 years.
Before returning to UMW, Hillyard was working with NOVA community college as part of an outreach program with Fairfax county public schools. In this position, Hillyard, advised students who planned on graduating and attending NOVA. On the future on Academic Services Hillyard said, “We are starting in a great place but it is going to get even stronger.”
Hillyard has hope that Academic Services will only continue to improve their ways of advising students, and is excited to be back at his alum mater aiding students whose position he was once in.
Editor’s note: In last week’s issue, it was incorrectly stated that “Academic and Career services plans to create two separate departments” when Academic and Career services actually made the split last summer. -Sarah Grammer, News Editor.