Housed in the College of
Agriculture and Life Sciences Department
of Zoology, the Emeritus Advisers Program was created in 1995 to
help with the growing number of students seeking advice from the preprofessional
advising program in that departments undergraduate office.
The Zoology undergraduate
offices preprofessional program was started in the 1970s by Dr.
Reinard Harkema, professor of zoology, and has built an excellent reputation,
says Armstrong, University Professor of Biochemistry Emeritus. Throughout
the years, the preprofessional office has earned the respect of the
professional schools, such as medical, dental, and optometry schools,
because it gives students such good advice and steers them to appropriate
By the mid-1990s, increasing
numbers of N.C. State undergraduates were seeking advice on preprofessional
curricula aimed toward medical and allied health careers, and numerous
post-baccalaureate students and career changers began returning to pursue
medical or other health-related careers. Those numbers indicated that
more advising help was needed. But the solution needed to take into
account two things lean budgets and the fact that not just anybody
could fill the bill of dedicated adviser who is savvy about both the
universitys curricular landscape and what is most attractive to
the professional schools.
Enter Horton, Armstrong
and, later, Roberts.
Actually, the idea
came from Dean Jim Oblinger, when he was director of academic programs,
says Armstrong. He had read an article that said universities
should take advantage of their retired professors. Dr. Horton and I
had advised for decades, and we have so much knowledge about the campus.
So it was a natural job for us.
Armstrong had retired in
1990, and Horton, William Neal Reynolds Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry,
in 1995. Both had served as coordinators of the undergraduate program
in biochemistry, essentially setting up one of the earliest and
now, one of the largest biochemistry undergraduate programs nationally.
In that capacity they had sent many students to the preprofessional
office for help. Furthermore, both had been honored by the College with
Outstanding Faculty Advising awards.
Not just any retired faculty
member would necessarily qualify, Horton says. It takes knowledge
and sensitivity, a mixture of compassion and sternness.
Horton himself brings to
the program a wealth of more than 30 years of advising students
and caring about them as persons, not just as students, he says,
adding that it is important for advisers to become sufficiently
knowledgeable to provide broad advice.
Joining them on the team
is Roberts, professor emeritus of zoology, who retired in 1998 after
33 years at N.C. State. Along with those years of experience, Roberts
also brings his expertise as chairman of the NCSU Preprofessional Health
Sciences Review Committee the group that reviews each students
professional school application package.
Roberts presence is
timely, as the emeritus professors duties have been expanded to
include advising biological sciences undergraduates and CALS undesignated
freshmen (those who have not decided on their major fields). In the
2001-2002 academic year, the program advised more than 400 individuals.
By spring of this year, Horton and Armstrong each had 75 assigned students
to advise in addition to 86 preprofessional advisees. Those numbers
promise to grow for a program that serves students across departments
and colleges, and even across the community, including meetings with
high school students and their parents and presentations to university
The magnitude and breadth
of the program are reflected in the specific demands for its services.
Among the groups seeking advice are the preprofessionals (students matriculating
toward medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and allied
health services), biological sciences majors, undecided freshmen, undergraduates
wanting to change majors, post-baccalaureates seeking career change
and prospective students and parents. The 48 programs sending student
advice-seekers not only include Agriculture and Life Sciences curricula
such as animal science, biochemistry, food science and zoology, but
also cover a diverse range including accounting, business management,
chemical engineering, graphic design, mathematics, mechanical engineering,
meteorology, philosophy and Spanish. Students from 10 of the universitys
colleges and schools were advised in 2001-2002.
These groups sought help
toward pursuing 26 fields of interest, such as biomedical engineering,
public health administration, occupational therapy, nursing, pharmacology
and podiatry and fields of medicine such as gastroenterology, neuromedicine
The medical schools
like to see applicants who have broader interests beyond science,
Armstrong says. To go to medical school, you can be in any major.
For example, we advise people from engineering, textiles, horticulture,
psychology and communications. An adviser can work with them to fit
in all the necessary courses. Its exceedingly interesting that
having a minor in Spanish is a plus for acceptance today.
Another new development,
he adds, is that the medical schools now see people in their 30s,
40s and older coming back to school as valuable candidates because of
their life experiences and maturity.
Some examples of the occupations
of career-changers who have sought the professors advice about
returning to school to pursue medically related fields are banker, baseball
player, dental hygienist, geologist, lawyer, paramedic, prison employee
and truck driver.
The professors have a bottom-line
agenda for all of their advisees: We tell them exactly what its
going to be like and try to get them mentally prepared, Armstrong
In a number of cases
with undesignated students, it helps them find a sense of direction,
a sense of how things fit together, says Horton. It helps
them to begin thinking about majors.
In addition to medical/health
care oriented fields, this past year undecided students explored with
the advisers ways to enter majors toward degrees in accounting, criminology,
microbiology, technology education and computer engineering.
As for the preprofessional
students whose majors are in place, the program fills in the gaps of
other academic advisers information. One of the things that
happens is that many advisers know how to advise within the limits of
their fields, but dont know how many things are required for the
medical field, Horton explains. One thing we can provide
is a perspective of the order of courses and when students need to take
First and foremost, students
are given A Strategy for Success as Premedical Students,
a five-step plan of action that includes what they need to do and know
in advance regarding their academic record; scores on medical, optometric
or dental admissions tests, such as the Medical College Admission Test
(MCAT); exposure to health care environment and research (volunteering);
participation in campus and community activities; and letters of recommendation.
we give them lists of hospitals and other facilities to direct them,
says Armstrong. We tell them what courses they need to take to
be accepted at medical schools. We advise them to join the premed/predent
club, to go to hear guest speakers, to work in medical and community
efforts. And we give them a Web site to look up.
www.cals.ncsu.edu/booklet is the Guide for North Carolina
State University Students Applying to Medical, Dental and Optometry
Schools, a manual prepared by Nancy Cochran, student services
manager for the Department of Zoology, who works with the review committee.
Cochran, the program associate and managing director of the Zoology
preprofessional program since the 1970s, is described by Armstrong as
the glue that holds it all together. He emphasizes that
the Emeritus program owes much of its success to the knowledge and assistance
of the well-established preprofessional program in the Zoology undergraduate
The on-line booklet takes students from the first steps You really should begin preparing for professional school as a freshman to numbers of specific course hours needed, to the lowdown on the preprofessional tests, to just what the schools are looking for.imply put, says Roberts, the Emeritus Advisers Program delivers.
This program makes it easier
for students to apply to medical schools, he says. We help
them with letters of reference and help them get their paperwork together.
We keep them advised of deadlines they need to pay attention to and
continually emphasize factors other than grades and performance on preprofessional
include experience in the health professions.
want people who are interested in serving the community, Roberts
says, so volunteerism is something students should take part in.
These are things that add to students applications and enhance
their chances to get in. The more times students hear about those things
from Ms. Cochran, their advisers and us, the better we can emphasize
what they need.
But one key factor that
is needed, he adds, is something the student must bring: Students
must be well-motivated to succeed.
A well-motivated student
would also recognize the value of the information available from the
Emeritus Advisers Program. More and more students are coming in
sooner, Armstrong says. The word has gotten out so that
the academic advisers are more aware of this resource.
He sees a measure of the
programs success in the fact that our students are getting
there [to professional schools] and doing well. Also, he notes
that both the UNC and Duke University medical schools consider the N.C.
State and Davidson premedical programs as among the best.
Roberts adds that the presence
of N.C. States committee-review process is another asset to preprofessional
students. One important point is that some of the medical schools
are hesitant to accept students that havent been part of a review
process, he says. We [the committee members] give a pre-review
to the students entire package including grades, preprofessional
test scores and volunteer experience in the health professions
and we pass our evaluation on to medical schools. Its a valuable
piece of information for the medical schools.
of those proceedings is in turn valuable to the advisees he serves on
the Emeritus Advisers team. As advisers, were interested
in students getting all those categories filled in so they not only
look good to a review board but to the schools they apply to,
he says. Accomplishing those goals continues to be stimulating, Armstrong
says. What makes a good adviser is really to have the best interest
of the students at heart and want to help them. My role as adviser is
to give information, advice and support. A good adviser is someone who
enjoys relating to students. Theyre all so different, and I find
And the students success is gratifying, too, Armstrong indicates, as he cites another telling statistic: Seventy percent of our graduates get accepted at dental schools, he says, because theyre well-prepared for whats coming up.