MLK program offers advising services, friendship

by Ed Swaray

For University student Fresona Vang, the Martin Luther King Jr. Program’s office does more than advising. It is a friendly environment where students can meet friends, make friends and talk to staff on many University issues.

“You feel a sense of belonging here,” she said. “It’s like we are part of a community.”

Vang, a third-year student, began coming to the program her first year when she was undecided about her major. She said the advisers helped her decide on communication. She has been coming to the program ever since.

Established in 1969 to honor black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to diversity and education, the program provides academic advising and other resources for College of Liberal Arts students.

Carl Brandt, interim director of the program, said it works with 930 students from different cultural backgrounds who represent different CLA departments.

“We are open to all (CLA) students who wish to be part of a multicultural environment,” he said.

Two years ago, the program worked with only first- and second-year students, he said. Now, the program has expanded and provides academic advising to students from orientation through graduation.

“We want students to make the most of their University experience,” he said.

He added that his seven-member staff – which includes four advisers, two support staff members and a peer adviser – is responsible for the program’s success over the years. He said they are committed to the well-being of students.

Brandt, who has served as interim director since December 2002, said the program’s new director would assume office in February.

Shoua Her, a pre-nursing student, has been a part of the program for two years because the advisers have in-depth knowledge on many University issues.

She said contrary to some people’s misconception, the program does not only work with minorities.

One of her friends, who is not a minority student, recently began seeking advice at the program because she was impressed by how the adviser related to her needs and concerns.

“Once you have an adviser that is willing to listen and talk, you will always want to stay where you are,” Her said.

First-year student Caimon Kollie will ask his current advising office to transfer his information to the King Program.

“I will sign up to the program next spring,” he said. “I just need a place I will be more confident to talk to my adviser.”