Sunday, April 13, 2014
Who Should Advise?
I’m a fan of efficiency, when it’s in the service of doing what we do better. But when it’s a way to try to make structural inequalities seem like they’re rooted in individual merit, I have to call foul. A discussion of advising that doesn’t even acknowledge summers reflects an assumption about the kind of college being discussed. Community colleges need to be discussed, too.
The faculty at my CC wish we had more full-time advisors because some of the greatest demand is at the very end of the semester when we have little free time to advise, and some requirements change faster than we have time to keep up. That doesn't even count the times when we are not on contract. (The reason we don't want to come in during late July and early August is that even full-time faculty are not being paid during that time.)
The first group's aim is to deal with new students; trying to match strengths with interests and choose a promising academic program. The second group is made up of faculty from each academic department. They work with the students for the remainder of their time at the school.
In the context of your discussion, the first group of advisers could be non-specialized and work year-round to deal with incoming students as they arrive. The second might have more established students for whom summer advising might not be so essential.
As a professional advisor I value the contributions and guidance faculty advisors provide. I would love to work with them so that they can assist some of the student populations that are referred back to me so that the student experiences continuity. Of course we would also need to look at the 9 month contracts that many of our faculty advisors have as well.
Neither population advises "better" and both have a lot to offer students.
At my alma mater, SLAC, they have started pre-building schedules prior to freshman orientation, so that during the "advising time" of pre-reg it's all about actual advising with faculty not picking a time slot. Of course, the schedule can be changed but it takes some of the burden off the students to pick the right classes from the start. It's working well so far. It also helps to determine how many sections of developmentals you'll need.
1) incoming admits are handed their schedules, with little option for change, after naming a probable major. This level of bossiness makes a certain percentage of admits decide to go elsewhere. But it probably helps the students negotiate the first semester with less stress. It certainly helps the institution allocate its resources more easily!
2) another public R1, where advising is simultaneously done by professional advisers to help the students cover all the required Gen Eds and distribution requirements plus a different thread of advising by faculty in the major to make sure they get all the prereqs and required-for-the-major courses. Very inefficient, and students will sometimes think that one or the other knows enough to advise on both sets of requirements, which is a big mistake.
Science departments that have their own professional advisor for majors for the first 60 units (usually an adjunct with a course release) get their students through faster than those who rely on the GE and professional advisors. Our faculty then help students plan and get through the last 2-4 years of their degree.
There is no discussion here of student advisors whom I have found to be extremely helpful - they give a boots on the ground view of things to other students and can help them avoid common pitfalls. They can also give advice as a peer that would be ignored coming from a faculty member.
I wonder if you offered to pay faculty folks for doing summer advising, would you get people willing to come in and advise? (My school has both, but does pay some faculty in different areas to do summer orientation advising, too.)