SA report finds faults with advising system

A study released earlier this month by a Student Association special committee based on student surveys found that academic advising is inefficient and needs improvement across most GW programs.

The report, which was delivered to each of the eight colleges that make up GW, cited unknowledgeable advisers, long wait times to meet with advisers and lack of individual treatment during advising sessions as major problems. The survey was administered online to 1,600 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in April 2005.

SA Sen. Heather Williams (ESIA-G) said she began working on the report after hearing numerous students complain about academic advising.

“I think that (GW) needs to talk more and find out what works and what does not in advising,” Williams said. “The big thing is making time for your students.”

“They can learn a lot about scheduling,” she added.

The most common complaints from the 613 undergraduate students who responded to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences advising survey were misinformation given by advisers, lack of assistance with scheduling classes and lack of sufficient advising for transfer students. The percentage of students indicating these comments was not provided; the report only indicated these were major concerns of students.

“Unfortunately, the negative comments far outweigh the minimal positive feedback,” the report stated about the undergraduate CCAS advising, the lowest ranked college in the survey.

Williams said the plight of transfer students was particularly troubling to her.

“What is emerging as a serious problem for the (Columbian College undergraduate) advising office in particular is service to transfer students, who are often ignored, not assigned an adviser and given insufficient information, although they are often the ones most in need of advising,” Williams said.

CCAS advising director Landon Wade cautioned students to take the report’s findings with a grain of salt because the survey did not differentiate between specific advising programs.

“The report did not break down faculty versus special advisers and it did not break down freshmen versus major students,” Wade said.

“(I)t is very hard to conduct research unless you are asking about a very specific group,” Wade said.

He added that many times students wait until the last minute before registering for classes to meet with their adviser, a practice he said can cause gridlock. Paul Duff, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the Columbian College, told The Hatchet in November that there are more than 70 faculty advisers that work with the 5,600 undergraduate students in CCAS.

“We have walk-ins in the professional advisers office, and faculty advisers all have office hours,” Wade said. “If students are waiting until the day or two until registration, there is no way that the adviser can see all of her students.”

Wade said the report contained nothing that was “shocking” and said CCAS is always looking for ways to improve.

James Fry, director of undergraduate advising for the Elliott School of International Affairs, said by the time the survey had been released, the school had already put into effect some of the its very recommendations.

“We were already aware of and acting on students’ concerns about accessibility of advisers who are very busy and overscheduled,” Fry said.

The ESIA undergraduate program had many of the same cited problems as the CCAS in the survey, including advisers’ lack of knowledge about courses and difficulty in scheduling meeting of knowledge about courses and difficulty in scheduling meeting times with advisers.

“We have hired another adviser since this survey was conducted, we are working closer with our liaison to the Career Center to provide more info. about internships, and we are working closer with the Study Abroad Office, scheduling frequent info sessions, panel, and meetings for students and advisers alike,” Fry said.

The School of Business undergraduate advising scored the highest in the survey. Freshman business administration major Greg Wright echoed the survey’s results.

“Advising sessions are quick, communication is good, and I get the classes I want,” Wright said. “Course requirements are clear, and I feel like they know what they are doing.”

The report gave a synopsis and breakdown of the survey questions answered by students and made recommendations to each college on how to improve advising. The most common recommendation was to hire more advisers that are knowledgeable about the school’s courses and curriculum.

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