Academic Resources

Academic Advising Office

The Academic Advising Office provides administrative and curricular support to all St. Olaf students and advisors. The office provides high-quality, timely service on academic curricular questions and encourages all students to become more knowledgeable and involved in planning their academic programs.

During the regular academic year, students may make appointments with staff members in the Academic Advising Office.  Contact information: phone (507) 786-6797, fax (507) 786-3923, email: advise@stolaf.edu

Academic Advising

Academic advising at St. Olaf College encourages the integration of the mind, body, and spirit as students learn to create academic, career, and lifelong goals. Students discover how to direct their intellectual curiosity, to overcome personal or academic barriers to learning, and to attain their goals. Central to this educational process is the collaboration between students and their advisors.

College Advisors

Students generally will have at least two advisors during their time at St. Olaf—a College Advisor, typically for the first two years, and a Major Advisor. Every incoming St. Olaf student will be matched with a faculty or staff College Advisor in August. The College Advisor will be the first guide to a liberal arts education at St. Olaf. College Advisors will discuss students’ interests and goals, and assist with course registration. They will introduce opportunities for international and off-campus study and experiential learning, as well as encourage the use of resources on campus to explore academic, career, and lifelong goals. Because the role of the College Advisor is to advise broadly, College Advisors will come from all areas of the college and typically are not in a department in which students are considering a major.*

All incoming students normally will meet with their College Advisor at the Meet and Greet event on opening day during Week One Orientation as well as the morning of registration to review their registration plans. Students will be required to meet at least once a semester with their College Advisor.

Major Advisors

By March 15 of their sophomore year, students will declare a major. By the end of the sophomore year, students are expected to have a faculty advisor within one of their majors. Before fall of the junior year, typically in June, students will be assigned to a Major Advisor from the faculty if they have not already changed to an advisor in their major. In certain circumstances, students will be given the opportunity to opt out of this re-assignment to a Major Advisor. Although most students will no longer be formally assigned to their College Advisor, students are encouraged to remain in contact with their College Advisor as part of the network of relationships that students build while at St. Olaf. Major Advisors continue the work of the College Advisors while also assisting advisees in selecting courses in the major and introducing students to opportunities in their field of study. Students will be required to meet at least once a semester with their Major Advisor. Students who are planning more than one major, and/or a concentration, are advised to consult faculty in the areas in which they are not assigned an advisor. Similarly, students who are pursuing Pre-Professional Studies should work closely with pre-professional advisors.

General information on Advising

After completing at least one semester, students may change to a different College Advisor or Major Advisor at any time during the academic year, with the permission of the new advisor via an electronic Request to Change Academic Advisor form, which can be found on the Student Information System (SIS). The Academic Advising Office and the department chairs and program directors oversee the reassignment of advisees for faculty on sabbatical or other leaves. Generally speaking, no individual advisor has more than 20 advisees in any given year.

The advice of advisors does not constitute a promise or a contract ensuring students graduate on schedule or complete specific requirements. Students and advisors must refer to the class and lab schedules to determine which courses fulfill specific graduation requirements. The responsibility for understanding and meeting degree requirements rests entirely with the student. Students have access to their academic records at any time on St. Olaf’s Student Information System (SIS). Students are encouraged to review the Students' Roles and Responsibilities for Academic Advising information in the catalog to maximize their advising experience.

*Students who are accepted into a major upon enrollment (music and nursing) will be assigned to an advisor in that major.

Goals for Academic Advising

Through academic advising, students at St. Olaf:

  1. examine the purpose of higher education at a Liberal Arts institution;
  2. examine goals and objectives of the St. Olaf College mission statement;
  3. develop an understanding of the goals and purpose of the St. Olaf General Education curriculum;
  4. learn to utilize resources on the St. Olaf campus;
  5. learn to develop an academic plan each semester;
  6. learn to prioritize competing responsibilities (academic, co-curricular, and personal);
  7. assess interests and talents and develop academic, personal, and career goals;
  8. integrate knowledge and skills acquired before and during study at St. Olaf; and
  9. develop a desire for life-long learning.

Students' Roles and Responsibilities - What Your Advisor Can Expect

The responsibility for understanding and meeting degree requirements rests entirely with the student.  

In order to take full advantage of the wide range of academic opportunities at St. Olaf College, students are expected to:

  1. express their academic interests and aspirations to their advisor;
  2. respond promptly to messages from their advisor;
  3. prepare carefully for meetings with their advisor;
  4. develop a 4-year academic plan that assists in pursuing a broad range of academic interests, in graduating in a timely manner, and in facilitating a desire for life-long learning;
  5. learn how to read a degree audit;
  6. explore the breadth of the General Education curriculum, in order to understand the significance of each of the requirements;
  7. pursue a profound course of study within a major field chosen from those offered at St. Olaf or independently developed with the assistance and approval of the Center for Integrative Studies. A major MUST be declared by March 15 of the sophomore year using the Request to Add or Drop a Major, Concentration, or Emphasis form found in SIS; however, students are strongly encouraged to declare a major as soon as possible.  In addition to a major, students may choose to declare an area of emphasis or a concentration;
  8. consider how to incorporate off-campus study and experiential learning (e.g., scholarship and creative activity including research, internships, co-curricular and volunteer activities, civic engagement) into their long-range plan;
  9. familiarize oneself with STOGoals, a comprehensive set of college-wide learning goals; and
  10. become aware of the large number of services and resources available on campus.

Academic Advisors' Roles and Responsibilities

The advice of advisors does not constitute a promise or a contract ensuring a student’s graduation on schedule, or the completion of specific requirements. 

Advisors support the student in fulfilling their responsibilities. Advisors are expected to:

  1. maintain confidentiality;
  2. be accessible;
  3. help advisees prepare for registration;
  4. encourage advisees to explore available resources to help make decisions regarding academic, career, and lifelong goals;
  5. assist advisees to choose courses that lead to a suitable major;
  6. introduce opportunities to engage in off-campus study and experiential learning (e.g. scholarship and creative activity including research, internships, co-curricular and volunteer activities, civic engagementand assist students to incorporate them into their academic plan;
  7. help students to achieve a comprehensive set of college-wide learning goals (STOGoals);
  8. assist students to understand policies and requirements when questions arise;
  9. assist advisees in immediate problem-solving;
  10. when appropriate, refer advisees to relevant office or resource person;
  11. assist advisees in understanding the purpose and goals of higher education in general, and the St. Olaf General Education curriculum in particular; and
  12. encourage advisees to change advisors if they declare a major in an area outside their advisor's realm of expertise. 

Academic Support Center

The Academic Support Center (ASC) supports all students as they work to maximize their full academic potential.  The ASC collaborates with faculty, staff, and other campus partners to provide a range of services, programs, and resources to support student learning.  Support is student-centered, accessible, inclusive, and free of charge.

          Academic Coaching

Academic Coaching is available for students who wish to learn more about or are struggling with time management, accountability, note-taking strategies, learning strategies, study skills or strategies, test-taking strategies, test-taking anxiety, and more!  

          Academic Tutoring

Peer tutoring is available in most courses and is provided upon request, referral, and in consultation with faculty. In addition to strengthening students' understanding of course material, tutors assist students in identifying areas to study or practice, discuss effective participation methods in class, and convey new study techniques. Tutors collaborate with faculty and Academic Support Center staff to monitor student progress.  In courses with Supplemental Instruction (SI) or departmental clinics/help sessions, tutoring requests will only be considered if students are actively using those resources on a regular basis or have extenuating circumstances.

          Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a peer facilitated, collaborative learning process offered in some historically difficult courses.  Courses that are currently supported are listed on the SI webpage. SI is a long-standing and internationally recognized program that assists students in learning and retaining course information, it has benn statistically proven to enhance course retention and persistence.  All students enrolled in SI-supported courses are strongly encouraged to attend any and all SI sessions throughout the semester.  SI attendance is anonymous and only recorded for research purposes.  

Academic Writing Support 

The Writing Desk helps St. Olaf students write clearly, critically, and convincingly to effectively engage in academic conversations. Tutors listen, ask questions, and provide feedback. Writing sessions typically focus on brainstorming ideas, strengthening arguments, developing support, organizing paragraphs, and refining sentences. Writing tutors do not edit or proofread; instead, they teach students how to do this for themselves. We don’t just want you to have a stronger paper; we want you to be a stronger writer.

          Academic Speaking Support

Tutors at the Speaking Space help students to argue clearly and coherently in speech, to organize and develop thoughtful presentations of their work, to listen and respond to each other in discussion, and to develop the speaking skills that enable them to effectively engage in academic conversations. Speaking sessions may include brainstorming ideas, outlining a speech, rehearsing a presentation, planning a class discussion, or polishing delivery skills. Speaking tutors provide feedback and guidance, and students usually receive a video of their work for them to review on their own. We don't just want you to have a stronger speech; we want you to be a stronger speaker.

Language Support for Multilingual Students

An English language specialist is available to provide semester-long or targeted support for multilingual students who have been referred by course faculty.  English Conversation Partners are available to meet regularly with students whose first language is not English for conversation practice and help navigating the academic culture of this campus.     

Disability and Access

Disability and Access provides consultation and assistance for students with disabilities as well as resources for their faculty members.  Services include identifying barriers to access, determining and arranging for appropriate accommodations (e.g. providing auxiliary aids), offering regular support and strategy instruction, and facilitating communication with faculty and staff.  

The Piper Center for Vocation and Career

The Piper Center for Vocation and Career is composed of five program areas offering a host of opportunities for students to discern their vocation and gain career-related experience while pursuing an undergraduate degree. Within each program are initiatives that promote the Piper Center’s mission to “provide resources and experiences designed to help students leverage their liberal arts education to achieve their full potential.” The Piper Center is a resource center for students, providing information and assistance to help determine vocational goals and devise well-informed post-graduation plans.

Career Education and Coaching

Career coaches help students develop, implement, and evaluate career and life plans while collaborating with academic departments to integrate concepts of career development into courses of study. Career Education workshops and events are designed to help students identify their vocation and refine their professional skills. From vocational discernment exercises, to mock interviews and salary negotiation, Piper Center events and workshops provide the tools to guide students toward a meaningful career or post-graduate opportunity.

Internships, Service, and Leadership

These programs support students in applying classroom learning and developing professional skills. Students utilize services and resources available through the Internship program to identify and prepare for structured educational work experiences. Piper Center staff work closely with faculty members to develop tools and strategies that encourage students to set learning goals and derive meaning from their credit and non-credit internship experiences. The Civic Engagement program helps connect the classroom with the community – linking students with civic and service opportunities in local, domestic, and international contexts. Collaboration between the Piper Center, faculty members, and community partners enhances learning and encourages students to develop the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to become engaged citizens.

Recruiting and Outreach

Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to interact with alumni and employers through on-campus and virtual recruiting, information sessions, job and internship fairs, and networking events. Piper Center staff facilitate numerous on- and off-campus career and networking events where students can take advantage of the vast network of St. Olaf alumni and other supporters living and working locally, domestically, and abroad.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship program promotes creativity among students, faculty, and alumni toward the goal of transforming society. Dedicated to education, research, and service within the liberal arts, the program supports student creativity through innovation grants, courses, internships, business plan development, start-up support, and networking events.

Postgraduate Scholarships and Fellowships

In close collaboration with faculty and academic departments, the Piper Center oversees the application process for students wishing to apply for nationally competitive fellowships requiring institutional endorsement such as Fulbright, Marshall, Truman, Udall, Carnegie, and others. The assistant director of fellowships assists students with the discernment process, advises on best practices for assembling a competitive application, shepherds students through the on-campus nomination process, and works in conjunction with academic departments to assemble faculty panels designated to evaluate applicant candidacy for a variety of fellowships awards.

Information Technology

Information Technology (IT) provides computers, software, A/V technologies, telecommunications, and support services to the entire St. Olaf community. All campus computers connect to the campus network, the Internet, and Internet 2.

Public computing labs are located in all the academic buildings and residence halls. Nineteen departments share or have their own specialized computing labs. This brings the total number of computers available for student use to nearly 1100. Multimedia computer workstations are also available in the Digital Scholarship Center (DiSCO), located within Rolvaag Library.  In addition to access to specialized software, the DiSCO offers support for video production, web design, 3D printing and scanning, and general support for the integration of technology and education. The library circulation desk also provides a wide variety of media production equipment available for checkout to the campus community.

IT works closely with faculty in supporting their use of technology in teaching.  This may take the form of digital assignments (e.g. podcasts, video, or website creation), classroom-based tools like personal response systems or "clickers" and computers and projectors, or by using our online Learning Management System (Moodle) to make course content available outside of class. All classrooms are equipped with computers, digital projectors, and other presentation equipment.    

Over 98 percent of all students have their own computer on campus. Students who own a computer can connect to the campus network and the Internet using either the wireless network or a wired connection. Wireless access is available across campus, including many outdoor spaces. Students can access their course assignments, check email, review their grades, view their tuition bills, stream videos, or just surf the web from the comfort of their rooms, the campus green, or from a study space just about anywhere on campus.

IT employs 30 full-time professionals and nearly 80 student employees who support the computing needs of the entire campus. A campus help desk and student computing consultants are available nearly 80 hours per week during the academic year, including assistance in the evenings.

St. Olaf’s Libraries and Special Collections

The St. Olaf Libraries provide a variety of carefully selected resources that mirror the breadth and depth of the undergraduate curriculum. These resources are housed in two branches: Rølvaag Library (the "main" library) and Halvorson Music Library. The libraries subscribe to thousands of print and electronic periodicals, core disciplinary journals, and hundreds of scholarly online databases and archival collections to support academic and curricular research.

The strength of the St. Olaf collection is magnified through our partnership with the Carleton College Library via the Bridge consortium which offers a joint catalog of over 1.3 million items, including physical and online video and audio recordings and digital resources. In addition, both schools have implemented Bridge², a web discovery tool that provides access to over a billion regional, national, and international academic resources. Strong relationships with national library consortia provide extensive delivery of items via interlibrary-loan.

While the Bridge consortium provides the fundamental resources for undergraduate research, it also has a number of unusual strengths. St. Olaf College has especially strong holdings in the fields of music, Nordic history and literature, and Norwegian-American culture and church life. The St. Olaf Libraries digitize, and make freely available, unique local publications such as the Manitou Messenger, the Viking Yearbook, and other works of historical significance to St. Olaf College.

The St. Olaf Libraries offer a course-integrated instruction program that teaches students to conduct research in a wide range of disciplines. In a typical academic week, the libraries provide 60 hours of research assistance at the reference desk. The libraries are open 110 hours per week when class is in session, with extended hours late in the semester and during exams. Twenty-six staff and more than 100 students purchase, organize, and provide access to a rich blend of materials and service points.

Kierkegaard Library

The Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library, located within the Rølvaag Library building, is the major research collection outside of Denmark for the study of the thought of the Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. The library was presented to St. Olaf College in 1976 by the Hongs, who gathered the collection to support their translation into English of the complete works of Kierkegaard, published in 26 volumes by Princeton University Press. The Library is directed by Professor Gordon Marino, a Kierkegaard specialist and professor in the Philosophy Department. Especially during the summer, the library offers programs that bring students and visiting scholars together for research seminars and private study as well as study of Danish for the purpose of reading Kierkegaard texts in the original language. More than 50 scholars a year come to the Library from all over the U.S. and around the world. The collection includes 12,000 book volumes as well as 5,000 periodical and newspaper articles, non-print media, and archival materials. The collection is open Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m-5:00 p.m. during the academic year, with extended hours in the summer months. Access to the collection at other times is available by appointment. The collection is open to anyone with interest in the study of Søren Kierkegaard, including St. Olaf and Carleton students, faculty, scholars, pastors, and other visitors. For further information, consult the Kierkegaard Library website at wp.stolaf.edu/kierkegaard.

College Archives

Located in the Rølvaag Library building, the Shaw-Olson Center for College History contains official records and publications, private papers, photographs, books, periodicals, audio and visual recordings, and museum artifacts that record and illustrate the history and life of the college. These materials provide historical information about the Board of Regents, the faculty, the student body, alumni, academic departments, the curriculum, administrative offices, campus services, college organizations, and campus activities. The mission of the archives is:

  1. to preserve materials that reflect the college’s identity;
  2. to make these materials available to scholars, students, alumni, and other interested researchers; and
  3. to promote attention to the college's history.

The collection may be searched electronically with Fram at www.stolaf.edu/apps/fram/. Fram identifies paper records and artifacts, indexes abstracts of all articles in the student newspaper, The Manitou Messenger, and provides full text searching for the St. Olaf magazine. The Center for College History also provides work opportunities for some students and occasional internships for majors in appropriate departments and programs.

The Norwegian-American Historical Association

Housed in the Rølvaag Library Building, the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) has been sheltered by St. Olaf since its founding in 1925. With an international membership of over 1,000, NAHA has two goals: to publish scholarly books on Norwegian-American history (106 books have been published so far) and to be a national center for research in Norwegian-American history by collecting and maintaining printed and manuscript materials produced by Norwegian-Americans or concerning their history. Printed materials, including periodicals and newspapers, are incorporated in the college library collection and other materials (such as diaries, journals, photographs, and records of organizations) in a separate archive. The oldest, out-of-print publications are available on the NAHA website at: naha.stolaf.edu. Both students and the public are invited to use this center for research in Norwegian migration.

TRIO Student Support Services (SSS)

507-786-8018 • http://wp.stolaf.edu/sss/

Student Support Services (SSS) is a student retention program sponsored by St. Olaf College with substantial support from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the NorthStar STEM Alliance, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the Hearst Foundations. The SSS program is one of three TRIO programs originally funded under the Higher Education Act of 1965, whose objective is to help students overcome class, social, and cultural barriers to complete their college education. SSS provides the following services: summer bridge program; academic advising/referral; cultural events and leadership activities; financial aid and financial literacy advising; graduate school preparation; research, internship, and scholarship application assistance; Supplemental Instruction (SI); and a graphing calculator, smartpen, and textbook lending program.

To be eligible for services, a participant must be a first-generation college student (where neither parent has a four-year bachelor's degree), meet federal income guidelines, and/or have a documented disability; he or she must also be a U.S. citizen or meet residency requirements for federal student financial assistance, and be enrolled at St. Olaf College. The SSS program provides services to approximately 165 eligible St. Olaf students annually. In order to apply for the program, students should complete an application and bring it to the Student Support Services Office in Tomson Hall 282.

Other Academic Support

Class Attendance

Class attendance is expected and usually required. Irregular class attendance becomes the concern of the college since absence from class represents an academic loss. Excessive or prolonged absences are reported by instructors to the Dean of Students Office.

Study Time and Study Habits

Many students need to adjust their time use habits on arrival at college. St. Olaf students are expected to devote a minimum of three hours of study outside of class for each hour in class. Making the best use of the limited time available usually requires using a good mix of daylight and evening hours for studying and avoiding study marathons. Successful study at St. Olaf usually includes reading ahead, attending class, using faculty office hours, studying for each class in frequent, short study sessions, attending help sessions, forming a study group, asking questions soon after they arise, and seeking help if the preceding efforts do not appear to be working.

Faculty Office Hours

Professors hold office hours for the classes they teach. Office hours are regular times set aside each week to talk with students from class, usually on a walk-in basis. Office hours provide an opportunity to ask questions about class topics, to extend the class discussion, or to get to know instructors better. St. Olaf faculty encourage students to avail themselves of this opportunity.

Help Sessions

Many departments hold special help sessions or discussion groups for particular courses. These are usually listed on syllabi for those courses and are usually staffed with upperclass students who have been successful in the course. These sessions may offer an opportunity to get a second look at the class material, to rehearse the ideas and vocabulary, and to ask questions.

Study Groups

Most students find it helpful in at least some of their courses to form a study group of two to three interested classmates. Such groups often improve understanding of course material through discussing assignments, exploring course ideas further, brainstorming possible test questions for each other, or formulating questions to bring up in class.

Continuous Reporting System

Instructors are required to file a continuous reporting form that alerts the Dean of Students Office to students who are having difficulties in a course.