What does “student support” even mean? Where can I get academic advice?

All you need to know about seeking academic advice and mental health help on campus

Dalhousie University offers multiple methods of student support across its three campuses. These resources include – but aren’t limited to – specific advisors designated for different purposes, and health counsellors. 

The Bissett Student Success Centre (BSSC) came to fruition last August after David Bissett made a donation. Director of Student Success Heather Doyle said the donation was to be used for “the purposes of focusing on academic advising.”

The success centre is on the fourth floor of the Student Union Building. There, you can find career services, career support, and the Studying for Success Services. First and second-year Faculty of Arts and Social Science (FASS) students, science students and first-year engineering students can all head to the Bissett Centre for academic advising.  

Are you a student who doesn’t fall into these faculties? You should seek advising within your specific faculty. 

Doyle says that there are two complications when it comes to students finding support: one, there’s so much support that it’s hard to figure out where to start and two, not knowing the difference between the different types of advisors and counsellors and what their role is.  

“A lot of times students might seek out support when they are already struggling, and that’s totally fine and there are supports there. But if you seek out help earlier – when maybe you don’t think you need it – then you’re able to talk through with someone the experiences you are having,” said Doyle. 

The success centre released a new guide to outline the different services available to Dalhousie students. We’ve put together a little mini-guide below, about different spaces to find support catered to what you want and need. 

Student Success Advisors 

A student success advisor will help you address issues relating to overall student success. 

Doyle said most of what advisors do isn’t just course selection and registration, but a lot of it is “helping students figure out why they are in university, how to set goals, how to engage in meaningful decision making, helping them increase their academic self-confidence, how they’re feeling about their ability and capability to be in university, and helping to navigate through the system.”  

They also offer a suite of “On Track” programs for first-year students: Start on Track, Stay on Track, and Back on Track.  

Start on Track offers courses to take online in the summer to learn tips and integrate into university life. Stay on Track begins with a Strength Finders test, and then three follow-up meetings with an advisor to keep you focused on your goals. Back on Track is offered before winter semester to get students back into the mind frame of learning after a long break.  

You can go to a success advisor at any time for any issue, and they’ll help you find the services you’re looking for.  

If you’re looking for help from the Success Centre, there are multiple different ways students can book appointments: calling, going in or booking online. During the first weeks of September, no appointment is necessary because they offer drop-in appointments to accommodate that back-to-school rush.  

 Black Student Advising Centre and Indigenous Student Advising Centre  

The Black Student Centre and the Indigenous Student Centre don’t just focus on academic advising but they also aid students with the transition into university: addressing shared lived experiences, offering cultural programming and creating connections between students in those communities.  

The Black Student Advising Centre has a “resource room” with a student lounge, kitchenette and Wi-Fi. It also has a computer lab. Advisors there help Black students at Dal apply for bursaries and scholarships, find employment and advocate for students.  

The Indigenous Student Advising Centre also offers financial aid, tutoring and advocacy for Indigenous students at Dal. There are four Elders who run an Elders in Residence program for Indigenous students and students taking the Indigenous Studies minor for guidance, counselling and support. Their office is in the McCain Building, Room 3037.   

Both the Black and Indigenous Student Advising centres are at 1321 Edward St on campus.  

International Student Centre 

The International Student Centre offers a wide range of supports. According to Doyle, there’s a lot of things that international students need to know that isn’t necessarily applicable to the entire student population.  

In order to make sure international students are aware of these things, the International Centre does their own orientation. They also offer counselling regarding study and work visas, as well as offer trained professionals to give immigration counselling to students.  

Accessibility Advising Centre  

Accessibility Advising is important for students with both mental and physical accessibility needs. If you need information or help with access inclusion or accommodation, reach out to this centre for resources. Advisors there can advocate with you or for you, and also help identify ways to reduce barriers to learning.  

Faculty Advisors 

Dalhousie has a large group of Faculty Advisors. Each faculty at Dal has its own faculty advisor to help students within their specific faculty – this way, they can help you with a special interest and knowledge of what your degree requires. Think of your faculty advisor as encompassing the traditional academic advising role. They help students with course selection, program requirements and enrollment.  

Support for LGBTQ2SIA+  

Dalhousie has multiple programs and safe spaces for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.  

Located on Seymour Street in the blocks of Dal campus, South House offers a safe and inclusionary space for organizing events, hanging out, advocacy and other free resources. 

The Dal LGBTQ2SIA+ Collaborative is another space offered on campus that is focused on sharing resources, information, educational programs and initiatives to increase awareness and support for students on campus.   

DalOUT is the LGBTQ2SIA+ student society run for and by students of queer and trans communities. “They provide education, advocacy, social programming, monetary support and peer support initiatives to queer and trans students on campus,” reads their website on dsu.ca. 

Dal Allies works with the Collaborative, and provides programs, services, training, support, referrals, and other resources on LGBTQ2SIA+ issues.  

All of the advisors at the Bissett Student Success Centre have their bios online which include their identities and pronouns so students can meet with someone with similar lived experiences.  

Health and Wellness Services at Dal 

Alongside advising services, Dalhousie also offers Health and Wellness Services. Students can access same day appointments with a doctor, mental health workers, counsellors, or social workers through the newly implemented “stepped-care” system. Students walk-in and receive a consultation while there, where medical professionals can decide what the next step is based on the student’s needs. The point of the new triage process is to hopefully limit wait times for mental health services.  

The Bissett Student Success Centre is creating a new position to embed a mental health/career counsellor in the BSSC for people seeking help from the Success Advisors. If a student is discussing issues that are more related to mental health with a Success Advisor, instead of having to go across the street to find a counsellor at health services, they can see the one that will be located within the Success Centre for this purpose.  

There’s also the Wellness Room on the bottom floor of the Student Union Building offers health and wellness programming all school year long. Events range from yoga classes, to sex talks with Venus Envy and mental health first aid training. It’s also open to students looking for a quiet space to meditate or relax. Most programs are free and available for drop-in but some do require registration which you can find on their website. 

Multifaith Services is a safe space on Dal campus for faculty and students of any faith to address concerns about their meaning and purpose in life. They offer individual counselling, group discussion, worship, workshops, lectures and social activities. They encourage open and free discussion and believe “a complete education addresses the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.”  

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Jessica Briand

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