Students visit the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Academic Programs and Services office for various reasons—changing/declaring a major, wanting to repeat a course to better their grade-point average, adding/dropping a course late, or simply confirming progress toward a degree—but they all find a helpful common denominator in director Luke Flaherty.
Flaherty, who became program director in 1984, and his staff assist students every day in their academic pursuits, and they serve as key members on various UI committees, particularly working with first-year student initiatives. Flaherty took some time to discuss his work with Parent Times.
Your office provides many services—care to highlight any in particular?
The primary reason students seek out our services and academic advice is to plan and confirm their timely progress in completing their degrees. The Academic Advising Center sometimes refers students to our office for clarification of college academic policies and practices.
Our staff offers individual interviews with students on academic probation who are having difficulty meeting the academic standards of satisfactory degree progress and who often may need to rethink their major declaration choice and seek help for learning strategies. During such student appointments, we are able to make many suggestions and referrals to UI counseling, health, or career services.
We likewise work with our highest-achieving students who are eligible to apply for scholarships, or who are invited to become members of the national liberal arts and sciences honorary society; and with our students graduating with distinction.
You taught undergraduates in the English department for nearly three decades. How has this experience influenced your current work?
I have never viewed my teaching, research/writing, and administrative functions as anything but inextricably linked. Literature centers my life; its core provides inspiration and practical application, comfort, counsel, and ballast. When answering questions from my staff, I often draw upon literary references—they might be soothing or witty, or perhaps wickedly excessive, but never boring.
You received a Regents Staff Excellence Award in 2005, and the Lola Lopes Award for Student Advocacy in 2008. What inspires you to succeed?
I am, like so many of the fine students I taught, a plodder, achieving nothing without assiduous effort. When I taught, my heart always went out to these students as they found their way to meaning and accomplishment in their studies. Receiving such elegant professional recognition, as my 40-plus-year academic career comes to a close, these are very fine and appreciated accolades.
What sort of advice would you give parents regarding their role in their children’s pursuit of academic degrees?
Listen and advise modestly as your students develop their academic planning. Allow your students to try the major they believe will be their ideal match; if your students stumble or even fail, continue to support and praise the pockets of their academic achievements. Our office thrives on helping your students; encourage them to take advantage of our services.
I always enjoy telling parents, “I look forward to seeing you at your student’s commencement ceremony.”
by Christopher Clair