Ryan Carey-Mahoney: Problems remain in advising

Media Credit: Ryan Carey-Mahoney

Someone throw me a lifesaver.

No, not the candy, but an actual flotation device, because I am drowning in the sea of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences advising.

Advising is just one element of a generally tenuous Columbian College and School of Media and Public Affairs relationship, as journalism and political communication students are subject to Columbian College advising requirements and models that hardly pertain to them.

The School of Media and Public Affairs is a part of the Columbian College, but since it is a specialized school, it should have exclusive SMPA-specific professional advisers.

As a journalism major, it is very easy to slip through the cracks of CCAS due to the sheer number of students the Columbian College, GW's largest school, must accommodate. The School of Media and Public Affairs, despite being a member of CCAS, is a school that is, in my mind, very separate from the rest of the Columbian College. But freshmen in SMPA still are assigned CCAS advisers, and so they lack a reliable source to turn to for advice in choosing classes and determining requirements and prospective career paths. And this is a danger that carries into future years, as SMPA is credit-heavy.

Columbian College advising, even after the University’s changes, is under-equipped, with only 18 advisers sharing the burden of more than half of the student body. So it is no wonder the advising department lacks the fortitude to actually guide students, particularly those in the highly specialized SMPA, to the right course plans.

With 48 credits devoted solely to the SMPA curriculum, if a student has one scheduling hiccup, he or she could fall behind. Beyond the fact that incorrect advising might force students to take courses they don’t need, it puts completing graduation requirements at risk.

When I talked to SMPA Director Frank Sesno, he acknowledged the importance of a strong advising model, particularly one that is sympathetic to the needs of students in the smaller SMPA community. A list of necessary classes does not satisfy the needs of students in the SMPA when they are pursuing courses that teach them a specialty; they have to complete the requisite 48 credits while also taking courses that concern them.

The Columbian College needs to make accommodations for SMPA's specialized nature either by providing the SMPA with a professional adviser or pairing freshmen with advisers who are also professors. CCAS advisers for SMPA students, while a good idea, are not helpful enough to cater to the needs of the school.

The SMPA and the Columbian College have found a way for the former to remain part of the latter while still feeling separate and specialized. But advising is one area where the two schools’ hybrid relationship still needs work.

Until then, I will be lost in CCAS waiting for someone, anyone to throw me that lifesaver.

Ryan Carey-Mahoney is a sophomore majoring in journalism.

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