Freshman advising revised

After re-evaluating the current structure of student advising, the Yale College Dean’s Office has made some changes for this year’s freshmen.

Though small, the changes ­— a new, graphical card describing advising resources, a summer academic preparation survey and a web portal for faculty — are the first steps toward further reevaluation of student advisement, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs George Levesque said. While the card may not have had immediate impact, over 98 percent of the class of 2013 filled out the survey.

“In the short term,” Levesque said, “we’d like to better articulate what the current structure is and provide better information in a more accessible format.”

The Committee on Teaching, Learning and Advising, which is currently conducting a review of advisement practices at Yale, will likely recommend more short-term changes, as well as long-term improvements to the current structure, Levesque said.

To consolidate a list of the available advising resources, Benjamin Critton ART ’11 created a card that explains the different advising functions of the residential colleges, academic departments and the Yale College Dean’s Office using a Venn diagram. The other side of the card features a table describing the general goals for freshmen, sophomores and juniors, and the particular publications, types of advisers and events that best help each class of student accomplish those goals.

Four out of the five freshmen interviewed said they found the card useful and informative after having it shown to them, though most did not remember it from their orientation materials. One student, Joey Krutov ’13, said he thinks students would likely throw it away without reading it.

Before they even arrived at Yale to receive the card, freshmen were asked to fill out a voluntary survey for placement in math, economics, chemistry, physics and statistics. The results were posted on the classesv2 server later in the summer. In previous years, freshmen filled out a battery of placement tests and preregistration cards during Camp Yale, with hectic results for both students and faculty.

All but 25 students filled out the survey, said Kurt Zilm, who has served as director of undergraduate studies for chemistry and worked on the survey.

“There’s been a whole lot less anxiety on the part of students in terms of where they should go,” Zilm said, adding that the change has helped the department as well. He and Levesque both said they hope the survey will expand to include placement data for other departments.

Changes to the faculty side of advising were less significant. A new Web site allows advisers to access a photo of, as well as academic and demographic information on, their advisees from anywhere. In the past, advisers had to pick up a hard copy — sometimes the day before they met their students.

But one faculty member, Robert Gordon, a law professor who has in the past advised freshmen in Ezra Stiles College, said the old advising system was adequate. It is not problematic when freshmen are paired with advisers with different interests, he added, referencing one of the most common critiques of the current system.

“No sane mathematics or science major is going to consult a law professor about what courses to take,” Gordon said. “But the law professor might have something to say about the overall look of the program.”

Levesque said he is unsure what future changes to advising will be, but he hopes the system will evolve to include knowledgeable upperclassmen as peer advisers for individual departments. Still, he acknowledged that this might put a burden on departments to provide oversight of the program. His office may also experiment with pilot programs in academic departments and residential colleges to test modifications to the advising structure, he added.

The Committee on Teaching, Learning and Advising will submit its report and recommendations to the Yale College Dean’s Office by the end of the academic year. In March 2009, the Yale College Council conducted a survey of the student body on freshman advising, and submitted it to the Committee in April.

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