Evan Schwartz: Online is great. Personal is better.

GW is looking to implement an online advising system, but in digitizing an already impersonal process, the University must take care not to alienate students. The problem with advising here is twofold, and an online system would only solve one of those problems.

It goes without saying that accomplishing simple tasks at GW can be very difficult. Anyone who has tried to add a class or change a grade here knows that it is incredibly difficult to negotiate through the bureaucracy and red tape. And when something comes up, whether it’s a mistake on a transcript or a problem with a professor, GW students simply do not have a person they can count on for aid, advice and advocacy.

The benefit of the proposed online advising system would be access to simple information about major requirements and credits without having to deal with people on the phone. Too often, a call to the Columbian College about a credit situation will result in a transfer to a different department, which will then advise you speak to someone else, who will then refer you back to the college again. Students would be able to save time, not to mention frustration, if they could see their matriculation schedule laid out online and not have to deal with individual departments.

Online advising would be a start to easing the advising process, but it should not replace the human contact necessary to feel like a part of an institution.

Too often GW makes the assumption that all of its students can fit into certain categories. Obviously it is impractical for such a large school to dole out personal attention to students. We are not a small liberal arts school that can afford to put in that amount of time. However, there’s no reason why students should enter GW, either as a freshman or a transfer student, and feel lost and alone.

Coming in as a freshman at GW, a student may end up speaking with as many as four different advisers before graduation. Instead of having so many specialized advisers, why not have another advisor who stays with you for as long as you are within the University? While it makes sense to have an adviser within a particular major, it also makes sense to have to someone familiar with your story and your goals. There could still be an adviser within each major for those that have course-specific questions, but having a mentor on a personal level should be a priority.

The purpose of keeping one adviser would be to establish a foothold in the University as soon as a student arrives on campus. Advising should not be another process here that seems cold and impersonal. The newly launched Guide to Personal Success Program is an excellent start, but it should be expanded to transfer students as well – everyone should feel like they belong to GW and that GW belongs to them.

While an online system will be a fantastic tool for students, there still needs to be someone they can turn to when they are confused or worried about their goals. Students often criticize the lack of school spirit here, but a more permanent advising system could help students feel more a part of a university that at first glance can appear quite faceless.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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