University revamps Columbian College of Arts and Sciences advising

Correction appended

Incoming freshmen in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences are now assigned professional advisers to guide them through their first year at GW, a switch from the college’s past model, which was highly criticized by students in the school.

Professional advisers have been used in the Elliott School of International Affairs and the School of Business for a number of years, and students in those schools generally speak highly of their advising programs. In contrast, CCAS has suffered from perennial complaints of ill-educated advisers who did not have the time or knowledge to offer sound advice, an issue the University decided to tackle last year with an overhaul of the program.

In February, the University announced it was revamping the advising program by doubling the number of CCAS advisers and hiring nine professional advisers at a cost of about $500,000. Freshmen are now assigned one of the 18 professional advisers, and after their first year of school they are given a faculty adviser in their respective majors. The Class of 2014 was assigned professional advisers alphabetically.

“Professional advisors are experts in helping students enter the academic life of college and successfully navigate it,” Duff said. “Faculty members are experts in their particular academic disciplines and they can best help students successfully pursue their major field of study.”

Professional advisers are generally more accessible than faculty advisers who juggle classes and research in addition to aiding students.

CCAS Associate Dean Paul Duff did not a return a request for comment Wednesday about how much the new program will cost.

Even with last year’s increase in advisers, CCAS still has a ratio of 280 students per professional adviser – well above the national average of 153 students to full-time advisers found at many four-year private universities, according to the most recent survey by the National Academic Advising Association.

Freshmen admitted directly into the School of Media and Public Affairs are also first assigned professional advisers, instead of being assigned an SMPA faculty adviser as was previously practiced.

“They know what SMPA majors would need, so they should be able to help,” said Professor Kim Gross, the associate director of SMPA, who spoke positively about the advising changes.

Gross said that even though there are freshmen who enter GW as journalism or political communication majors, they usually take classes to fulfill their general course requirements during their first year, something the professional advisers are trained to navigate.

“To the degree that you’re spending a lot of time on the general curriculum, and putting that stuff together and thinking about how you should do stuff, it makes sense to talk to [a professional adviser],” Gross said. “We’re not experts on the general curriculum.”

Still, if a freshman has specific questions about his or her major, Gross said the student can always meet with an SMPA professor. She said this year will be a trial run for advising SMPA students, and she looks forward to seeing how it plays out.

This report was updated on Nov. 4, 2010 to reflect the following changes:
Due to a reporting error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that seven positions were added. In fact, nine new positions were added. The Hatchet also erroneously reported that first-year students would be assigned to one of the seven new advisers. In fact, the students will be split between 18 professional advisers.

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