Updated: March 1, 2018 at 10:16 a.m.
Student Association leaders are trying to gauge student satisfaction with academic advising across schools.
The SA sent out a survey last week to all undergraduate students asking for insight on why they attend academic advising, how well they know their adviser and whether creating a four-year academic plan benefited them. Student leaders said the survey will shed light on the highs and lows of GW’s academic advising system by providing both the SA and administrators with data about how well the system is working.
Karisa Anand, the SA’s vice president for academic affairs who has been working on the project, said she began brainstorming the content of the survey over the summer and worked on it throughout the fall semester to quantify how students feel about their academic services.
“I think this is a really big step forward towards seeing what the student body feels towards advising, getting one area and bringing it to administrators,” she said. “Instead of just saying students aren’t happy, here we have the data showing whether or not they are happy or whether or not they are unhappy.”
Academic advising has been one of the most criticized aspects of the University in recent years and has been a top subject at listening sessions on the student experience with administrators and members of the Board of Trustees this academic year.
About 175 students have completed the survey so far. Anand said the most insightful part of the survey has been the free response section at the end, where students have detailed how they feel about advising beyond the scope of multiple-choice questions.
“Because nobody has created a survey in regards to academic advising in a long time, I feel like this will also help students who are senators, cabinet members, but also general students who are passionate about improving our advising system have the tools and the data necessary to be able to implement ideas that they think will better the academic advising,” Anand said.
Nicole Cennamo, the SA’s assistant vice president for academic affairs, said advising has been a longstanding topic at the University that has never been fully addressed. In particular, many students have called for updates to the Columbian College of Arts and Science’s POD system in recent years, she said.
The POD system assigns students to a group of advisers based on last name. The structure was originally implemented in 2015, after students had difficulties scheduling appointments with their advisers.
“It’s hard for CCAS students to form personal connections with their adviser, and we saw that connection is hard to feel,” she said.
The survey allows the SA to track the progress of its work on academic advising, and in several years, new SA leaders can send out another survey to gauge the progress of the effort, she added.
SA President Peak Sen Chua said the survey will help identify the most troubled advising systems at the University, since each school has its own set up.
“I think students generally feel that the systems are transactional and they just feel like they’re just one out of many thousands of students enrolled in college,” he said. “They don’t feel like their advisers sometimes know their specific needs or goals or their specific degree requirements.”
Chua said the survey will be open for about two or three weeks, then SA leaders will collect the data and evaluate the best way to release it, possibly in the form of raw data or a report. He said the SA is attempting to get as many students as possible to participate in the survey to ensure the results are representative of the student body.
The advising survey will piggyback off of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s focus on the student experience, because LeBlanc has mentioned academic advising as a priority during meetings this year, Chua added.
He said the SA will bring administrators the results of the survey by the end of the academic year, which could lead to further conversations about how academic advising services could be improved at GW. Chua said the SA will wait to propose specific ideas until after the survey results are analyzed.
“I think there are a lot of passionate people here at the University who really want to do their best to help students succeed, and I think that students also want to help their advisers help them succeed,” Chua said. “I think that this is a first of many steps to really improve that relationship because I think advising is a two-way street.”
Olivia Dupree contributed reporting.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported Karisa Anand’s title as the SA’s director for academic affairs. She is the SA’s vice president for academic affairs. We regret this error.