SA seeks to create peer advising program

The Student Association plans on launching a mentoring program that would match up underclassmen with juniors and seniors to get advice on class registration so that they can avoid regular advisers.

The program would resemble the advising process at Colonial Inauguration and is based off of the Elliott School of International Affairs’ peer advising program. The SA’s Academic Affairs Committee hopes to draft the details of the program for GW’s other undergraduate colleges by the end of the semester.

“Many students comment that CI has great advising. After CI, the advising goes from very high to very low,” said Sen. Heather Williams (ESIA-G), chair of The Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee.

“Since the Elliott School has a peer advising program, the possibility is definitely out there, and it just has to be expanded,” Williams added. “It is one of the best opportunities.”

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, with approximately 5,600 undergraduate students, has more than 70 faculty advisers who work within the college to facilitate students’ academic advising needs,

said Paul Duff, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Columbian College.

Advising officials welcomed the idea of increasing advising across the University, but said they see no major flaws with the current advising system.

“Advising systems are never perfect,” Duff wrote in an e-mail last week. “I think the Columbian College’s system works relatively well.”

To become an SA peer adviser, a student would have to undergo a training program and have designated office hours. The SA’s Academic Affairs Committee will be meeting this weekend and will send out proposal reports to the University in the coming weeks.

CCAS freshmen take a freshman advising workshop their first year at GW and are then assigned an adviser based on their majors.

Duff said there is about one freshman adviser for every 20 to 25 students, depending on the department.

“I think it’s a great idea for students who have had experience explaining things,” said Susan Yoo, professional undergraduate academic adviser for CCAS. “It is a lot different from professional advisers.”

Williams said an April survey of 2,000 undergraduates revealed that half of GW students use their peers as advisers.

Associate Professor Susan Wiley, undergraduate coordinator for the political science department, said there used to be an undergraduate advising program comprised of six to eight students, but it was underutilized and eventually cut from CCAS.

“I think the Columbian College does a fabulous job with advising, even without that program, which student didn’t use,” Wiley said. “The system seems to work every well.”

Wiley added that the faculty members within her department always have “open doors” to talk to students, but many students don’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Caitlin Pigaga, a sophomore who said she has only been to her adviser once, said, “Advisers are much more like high school guidance counselors than professional advisers. I try to avoid my adviser, and it would be much better if I could work with a student instead.”

Other students said a peer advising program is unnecessary because they “figured it out” on their own.

“I’ve never had too much of a problem with advising,” sophomore Lewis Groswald said. “The CI advising is helpful, and I guess to have that year round would be good, but I don’t think I would use it.”

-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.

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