Release Date: 
Friday, September 18, 2020

Student Services Spotlight: Academic Advising and Student Success

Photo of Charles Jackson and a student
Photo: HFC Academic Advisor Charles Jackson works with a student.

This article is part of a series highlighting our Student Services offices and what they can do for you. For information about all HFC student services, please visit the Student Services and Campus Resources sections of our website.

T he office of Academic Advising is focused on the success of every student who attends the College. Whether you're seeking an associate degree, a certificate, wishing to transfer to a four-year educational institution, wishing to join the workforce, or just taking a class to brush up on a particular skill or for your own enrichment, Academic Advising team members are here to help you, our students, reach your academic and career goals.

That mission has not changed, regardless of the current pandemic, which has forced every department at HFC to make changes.

“Our commitment to students and their success is the entire reason we’re here. That is at the heart of who we are as Advisors, Navigators, and Coaches, and that will never change,” said HFC Manager of Advising and Student Success Lorraine Paffenroth. “We are student advocates. Any time we are able to remove barriers and roadblocks for students, creating clearer pathways, we are successful.”

New, creative approaches to advising during the pandemic

Advising is even more essential in this pandemic and it is imperative to keep the lines of communication open now more than ever before.

“We’ve had to be very creative in new approaches to how we reach out and communicate with students,” explained Paffenroth. “We adopted Google Voice for phone calls, allowing us to call students directly from our computers. Google Voice also gives us the advantage of using text to communicate with students, which has been highly effective over voicemail and email. We have implemented video advising appointments using Microsoft Teams. We have found that many students prefer to meet by phone and video rather than in-person. We have seen an increase in appointment attendance of 40 percent since working remotely!”

There are multiple ways students can contact Academic Advising:

  • Visit the Student Portal and select “Academic Advising (Ask a Question)” in the Student Academic Resources menu
  • Email Advising@hfcc.edu.
  • Login to the Student Portal to schedule an advising appointment, then select “Schedule an Advising Appointment” from the Student Academic Resources menu.
  • Call the Advising Office at 313-317-6845 to request a drop-in call for quick questions.

Similarities and differences between advisor and counselor

HFC has both academic advisors, success navigators and counselors to help students. Paffenroth explained the differences and the similarities between an academic advisor or success navigator and a counselor. Both include teams of professionals committed to each student’s success, from an academic standpoint and a mental and physical heath standpoint.

“Academic advisors and student success navigators are assigned to you based on your program of study, and are available by appointment and on a limited walk-in basis when we are on campus,” she said. “To make sure you start off on the right track, new students are required to meet with an advisor. From your first class through your graduation, academic advisors and student success navigators will help you map out your academic plan.”

Counselors focus primarily on a student's health and wellness, as well as long-term professional and personal goals, said Paffenroth. “Counseling can help in reducing your stress level. It can improve your ability to make healthy decisions, to enhance your relationships with others, and to be successful with your personal and career goals. As we grow and change, most of us need help in sorting out the concerns and problems we face at different times in our lives. This process can involve exploring thoughts, perceptions, reactions, behaviors, and emotions to better understand ourselves.” Counselors are also able to assist students in selecting a career path and determining how their interests and abilities coincide with various career options.

Paffenroth also mentioned Detroit Promise, a program through the Detroit Regional Chamber that pays for an associate degree at no cost to eligible students (graduates of a Detroit high school). Detroit Promise Campus Success Coaches provide personal coaching and guidance to Detroit Promise students attending HFC. They help students navigate the transition from high school to college. The goal is that students will successfully complete college, which can be an associate degree, a technical certificate, or transferring to a four-year educational institution after graduation.

NOTE: If you are seeking guidance about your health and wellness or your long-term career and life goals, make an appointment with a counselor. See our companion article about Counseling.

Your advisor is your “new best friend”

Paffenroth encourages students to make their HFC advisor their “new best friend.” Your advisor will help you:

  • Develop skills and knowledge to make decisions about your education
  • Deftly navigate the admissions process
  • Find information about HFC programs
  • Make course selections
  • Figure out what your assessment scores mean
  • Complete financial aid paperwork (if applicable)

A Student Success Navigator will help you (in addition to the above):

  • Connect to others on campus
  • Find and use campus resources
  • Form high-quality relationships through clubs and student organizations
  • Stay on course by working as your advocate and mentor
  • Resolve problems that affect your success

“As advisors, we want to get to know you, what your goals and dreams are, and help you be successful. As a student, it is important that you have a relationship with the people who can support you and give you guidance. Surround yourself with a few people you trust to help you. A trusted friend, a family member, an instructor, and your advisor are those people. Share your ideas and thoughts about your educational goals with them and ask for feedback. No one has to do all this school stuff on their own,” said Paffenroth.

Students responsibilities and the need to be proactive

Students have responsibilities for their success, too. You will want to be be proactive in your education. Contact your advisor and schedule appointments on a regular basis, or in case of any emergency that might impact your coursework. You should be prepared for your appointments with your advisor by bringing questions with you. Do not be shy about asking questions, no matter how trivial or irrelevant they might seem.

You should also bring a planned course schedule, program evaluation, or other relevant info to your advising appointments. And, read your HawkMail regularly for important updates!

“Expect us to ask you about your career goals and your transfer plans to a university,” said Paffenroth. “We will ask you about your program of study and why you chose it. We will ask about previous coursework and transfer credits. We will help you plan your classes for your next semester and beyond, based on your program of study and to stay in compliance with Financial Aid. We also allow you the flexibility to set your own schedule and register yourself for the sections you select. We will encourage you and support you along your journey.”

Taking time for yourself

Just as Paffenroth advises her department and the Detroit Promise teams, students need to take time for self-care during these unprecedented times by:

  • Making time for yourself
  • Enjoying time with friends and family
  • Maintaining a routine for school, work, and play
  • Getting enough rest and exercise and healthy food
  • Practicing social distancing
  • Wearing a mask

“Stay safe, and be well,” she said. “And remember that you have people at Henry Ford College who care about you.”

Paffenroth is proud of how her staff has pulled together during the pandemic.

“I’m seeing a lot of wonderful things coming out of a not-so-wonderful situation,” she said. “As a team, we are seeing an increase in our efficiency and collaboration, not only among ourselves but with our teammates throughout the Welcome Center. Communication seems to be more immediate now, and requests for support are met swiftly and resolved. By increasing our use of technology, we have greatly reduced our dependency on paper -- forms in particular -- thus saving students trips to campus to hand-deliver documents. We are learning more about who we are as individuals and discovering individual traits, personalities and, most importantly, our sense of humor.”

Chromebooks and CARES funding are available for students

If students do not have access to computers, the College has been loaning Chromebooks to students through the Office of Student Affairs since March 2020. To obtain a Chromebook, students need to call the Office of Student Affairs at 313-845-9610.

There is also money available through the CARES Act for students to purchase equipment needed for their education. The fall CARES application is available on the HFC website.


Now is the time to make your advising appointment for Winter 2021! To schedule an appointment, visit the Student Portal and select Academic Advising.

Academic Advising website