Academic advising can be a common frustration among students searching for direction in college. In an aim to remedy that, students and administrators came together Monday night to discuss their concerns.
The director of academic affairs for the SGA, Caroline Gimenez planned the first advising forum earlier this year to initiate a conversation between both parties.
“For the past couple of years, advising has been a hot topic both from an administrator’s perspective and from students,” Gimenez said.
According to Gimenez, previous questions by students have been about pre-professional advising, class planning through checksheets and advisor training.
In a search for solutions, the forum was intended for students and administrators to address the issues together.
“I thought, what better way to get a conversation going than to put them in a room and let them chat it out?” Gimenez said.
However, in order to address problems effectively, Gimenez took a different approach. She asked representatives from each of the seven colleges to explain the rules and limitations of advising within their specific college to the students.
“There are a lot of setbacks to advising, so I kind of wanted to give the administrators and the faculty time to explain to students this is why it’s run this way, this is some of the challenges we face in advising, what can we do to make that better?” Gimenez said.
And that is what they did.
Nine students and nine administrators attended the event.
Seven tables were set up to represent each college in the university. They all joined in a discussion about their advising structures and how to encourage students to meet with their advisors, among other things.
Rachel Holloway, associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs, asked students what they could do to encourage students to meet with their advisors. Ideas mentioned included assigning a consistent advisor beginning freshman year, requiring students to visit their advisor to satisfy first year experience classes, and placing holds on student accounts.
Other college representatives, such as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Engineering, talked amongst themselves on how they each worked with students in terms of academic advising.
While the forum discussion was a new approach, this is not the first time the university has worked on receiving student feedback on advising.
Every three years, an assessment is sent out to gather student opinion on advising, according to Kimberly Smith, director of the university academic advising center.
In addition, individual colleges also conduct their own assessments — for example, University Studies.
“We do surveys since our students have to transfer out by a certain point into majors,” said Elaine Matuszek, associate director for academic advising and orientation. “We usually get quite good evaluations, and our numbers are high in regards to satisfaction.”
Pamplin College of Business, on the other hand, does not currently hold as many assessments, but has received complaints regarding their structure.
“The first two years are done by professional advisors, and the second two years are done by faculty advisors in the major,” said Jennifer Clevenger, director of academic advising. “That’s been our major source of complaints — that the shift is a tough thing for students to do.”
Both colleges attended the forum, eager to work with students to find solutions.
“I think whenever you can get the students’ direct feedback, it’s only a good thing,” Matuszek said.
Gimenez will be forwarding the ideas gathered at the forum to deans of colleges and department heads.
“I’m going to try to follow up with them one-on-one before the end of the semester to see where we can go from here,” Gimenez said.
Gimenez hopes to see problems surfaced at the forum resolved within a year.
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