Parent tackles advising issues

Stories of indifferent and incompetent academic advisers have prompted one GW parent to try and fix advising issues across the University.

Masood Vojdani, incoming chair of the Parents Campaign Philanthropy Board, has reached out to groups of students and gathered their stories – good and bad – about advising at GW. Vojdani said he has received more than 70 e-mails from students about their advising problems.

“My initial feelings started with my own kids. After hearing their advising experiences, I talked to about 20 of their friends,” Vojdani said. “I kept finding another nightmare story. I had to go through 17 kids before I found one good experience.”

After word spread about Vojdani’s interest in advising, students filled his inbox with complaints about the advising experience.

“Some juniors said they don’t even care about advising and they don’t visit their advisers anymore,” Vojdani said. “GW is a great school, but it lacks in this area. Advisers need to be hand-holding, guiding and caring – caring being the key word. And the caring at GW is missing.”

And other parents agree, he said. Vojdani said in the past three weeks about a dozen parents have approached him, all with the same concern: advising at GW is failing students.

“The duty of advising is the duty of care, and that care is missing,” Vojdani said.

While most students have only complaints, Vojdani said that the School of Business was hailed for having a comprehensive advising program.

“Some of the business school advisers are caring, students have told me. In general, they do a better job in the business school than they do in the Columbian College, because advisors in the Columbian College are overwhelmed.”

Larry Fillian, the director of undergraduate advising for the School of Business, said parents of business students are happy with the advising system.

“Parents are most impressed with the First-Year Development Program which all freshmen must complete – a year-long course designed to prepare students for careers in business,” Fillian said.

Students have hailed the School of Business in the past for offering advisers whose sole job is to assist students, something students in the Columbian College have said is missing from their advising program.

The college has the largest number of students in the University, making the job for professors moonlighting as advisers harder. Vojdani said he heard the most complaints from CCAS students.

“There are so many students in the Columbian School that the advisers really need to take up the responsibility of caring. We don’t want to say all are bad, but the CCAS needs to improve their advising quality,” Vojdani said.

But CCAS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Paul Duff said his office has listened to students, making changes to reflect past criticism.

“In recent years, we have improved many of our services. We hired two new professional advisers, one to focus on sophomores and the other to concentrate on transfer students,” Duff said.

Duff said the school was willing to work with other parties to advance its advising operation.

“We are happy to work with any and all members of the GW community to improve our advising services,” he said.

Landon Wade, director of academic advising for the Columbian College, declined to comment for this story and directed questions to Duff.

Nicole, a Columbian College freshman who requested her last name not be used, said her main problem with advising was her adviser’s schedule. Her adviser often did not respond to multiple e-mails asking for guidance and support. Nicole said she was worried about the intensity of her courses during the first weeks of classes, but did not hear back from her adviser until well into the semester.

A School of Media and Public Affairs freshman named Carrie said adjusting to college was harder because she did not have an adequate support system. She said she was not informed about prerequisites and was puzzled about the required credits.

Vojdani believes that “freshmen are the ones that need the most help. They are new to college and need to be guided and taken care of. After three years, they are more likely to stand on their own. But for now, they need the attention.”

Already, he has brought the students’ “nightmares” to University administrators and said he will look into ways to fix advising with the help of students and the University.

It is GW’s responsibility to “fulfill its potential and strengthen the advising system,” he said.

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