Advisers help students through maze of requirements

Navigating through the maze of graduation requirements is daunting to some GW students.

To give students some direction, the University offers a network of faculty advisers, intended to “help students learn to make well-informed choices,” according to the University Bulletin. Both students and faculty, however, acknowledge common problems with the system, including a lack of communication and initiative on both sides.

But some students say advising problems run deeper – some discovered when they attempted to contact their advisers that their advising faculty member was on sabbatical.

While GW’s different schools acknowledge room for improvement in their advising programs, some students still worry they will be left to fend for themselves while departments make adjustments to the system.

Junior Jesse Hartman, whose scheduling question was transferred through several advisers, was baffled by conflicting opinions.

“All of the advisers gave me different advice,” she said.

Each school manages its advising differently. Both the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences use faculty as advisers. Incoming students are randomly assigned advisers from various departments to assist them until they declare a major; then they are assigned to a faculty member in their fields of study.

“Since engineering is a professional school, students should have someone with professional experience,” said Howard Davis, the director of admissions in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The Columbian School also offers the Oxborough Student Services Center, where students can speak with full-time advisers during specific hours and by appointment.

In the Elliott School of International Affairs and the School of Business and Public Management, full-time advisers – who are not faculty – are hired for the students. Advisers are assigned as soon as the students enter the school.

“We have knowledge of all of the programs within the school,” said Greg Capers, academic adviser for the School of Business.

Director of Academic Planning and Assessment Cheryl Beil said she is an advocate of having full-time advisers, especially before a student declares a major.

“Their sole responsibility is to advise,” she said.

In 1991, the University felt more attention should be given to freshmen, Beil said. To reach this goal, the Columbian School implemented a freshman advising workshop. CSAS’s mandatory pass/fail course was designed to better acclimate them into a university setting. The freshman advisory system was soon added to all other schools within the University.

The Columbian School requires participation in the freshman advising workshop, which students must take in the fall of their first semester. Called CSAS 1, the class is taught by a faculty member, a professional staff person and a peer adviser.

“(The workshop) is devoted to maximizing students’ abilities to be successful at GW, given the huge transformation to college life,” said Kim Moreland, associate dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Columbian School.

Cayo Gamber, assistant professor in the English department, volunteers as a freshman adviser. She believes the program is successful because “three individuals from three different facets of the University bring different perspectives and resources to the classroom.”

Yet some freshmen believe the program is unnecessary.

“It’s a waste of time,” said Teddy Segal, a freshman participating in the freshman advising workshop. “If you have any idea or direction as to what you want to do, you can look in the Bulletin.”

All of the schools also have implemented systems to assist transfer students, ranging from drop-in advising in CSAS to assigned advisers in the Elliott, business and engineering schools.

“My adviser made my transition (to GW) easy,” said Douglas Dyakon, a transfer student in the Business School.

However, some transfer students said advisers are not completely equipped to deal with their specific questions and problems.

“(Administrators) were too busy to give me the attention that I needed when I called,” said Hartness, a student in the Elliott School.

In addition, all non-transfer students are required to meet with advisers before registering for classes, but transfers found no such condition. Hartness suggested having transfer advisers to deal specifically with their needs.

Moreland believes an abbreviated workshop, similar to that of CSAS, would benefit transfer students. Moreland intends to survey transfer students to discover their attitudes.

Representatives from all schools at GW said the kinks in their advising systems are continually being evaluated.

“Advising takes a lot of time,” Beil said. “While the University is committed, the faculty is limited.”

Howard Davis of SEAS said the biggest problem is encouraging students to take advantage of the advisers. He said SEAS is seeking an academic service coordinator to facilitate the school’s advisers.

“We need to make a bridge between the students and faculty,” he said.

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