CCAS advising may change

A committee to revise academic advising in the University’s largest school will release a series of recommendations in the next few weeks on how to overhaul the system.

The report is the culmination of a year’s worth of monthly meetings to identify problems with advising in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. It was commissioned by CCAS Dean Peg Barratt after Student Association members expressed student dissatisfaction with the program.

Three major suggestions made by the committee will be to improve the ratio of students to advisers in large departments, to create incentives for more professors to serve as advisers and to alter first-year advising, said Paul Duff, associate dean for undergraduate studies in CCAS.

Committee members emphasized that freshman advising should be streamlined, the political science department should have more advisers and faculty should include advising in their annual reports.

Junior Tim Little, the SA executive vice president for academic affairs and a committee member, said the committee was comprised of “a diverse group of individuals representing various stakeholders from the University community,” including faculty, administrators and representatives of students and parents.

The report is not finalized, and will eventually be presented to Barratt, who will decide whether to abide by the suggestions. Duff said he is sure the report will be released before the end of the semester and hoped to send it to Barratt within the next week.

“We’re hoping to schedule a time to sit down and talk with her,” he said. “We don’t just want to throw this at her without the proper explanation.”

Duff said CCAS would definitely bring back the student handbook, a spiral bound pad explaining the requirements for the school. The guide, which CCAS stopped distributing in 2006, will include forms such as four year plans and tips on scheduling classes.

Duff also stressed that the transition period from freshman advising to advising students with majors was a particular focus for the committee.

“We took a very close look at the undeclared sophomore,” Duff said.

Duff said the proportionately low number of advisers in some of the school’s largest departments is “obviously a problem.” He declined to specify if the committee will recommend hiring more professional advisers or merely faculty members to take on an advising role.

“Part of the issue is that advisers need to want to advise students,” Duff said. “It’s no good if an adviser doesn’t want to deal with undergraduate scheduling, because the last thing the student wants is to feel like a burden when they go into an appointment.”

Duff said advising will improve only after a “culture shift” within the departments.

“Advising needs to go from this thing that one person in the department does to a shared responsibility,” he said. “There also needs to be more of a focus on mentoring students and creating conversations rather than just one-way advice.”

The dean added that students had responsibilities in the advising process too.

“Students take a passive approach to advising. They say, ‘My adviser needs to tell me everything I need to know,’ but it shouldn’t work like that,” Duff said. “You have to do more than run in for 10 minutes the day before registration.”

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