Committee weighs in on advising

The University should clarify the responsibilities of advisers and make sure students understand the purpose of advising, according a new report on advising by a Yale College committee that was presented to the faculty Thursday.

After two years of research, the Committee on Teaching, Learning and Advising brought the 15-page report to a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Former committee chairman Edward Cooke ’77, who oversaw the project, said the report suggests that the University ease the transition between advisers in different years, better recognize faculty for their work as advisers and develop a Web portal where advisers and students can find information about each other. Cooke also noted that students, especially freshmen, often have unreasonably high hopes for their advising.

Cooke said many freshmen complained that they could not relate to their advisers because they often do not work in the same academic field, and faculty likewise admitted that they sometimes felt ill-equipped to advise about courses outside their specialties.

“It became clear that these types of comments came out of a misunderstanding of the roles of freshmen advisors,” he said, explaining that freshman advisers should offer general guidance. Students can go to academic departments for specific advice, he added.

Cooke said information about advising should be emphasized to new faculty as soon as they arrive on campus. To ensure that advising remains a priority, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said she particularly supports the report’s call to recognize faculty for their work as advisers.

While the University must better support its advisers, the committee also recommends increased support for students as they transition between advisers over the course of their four years at Yale, Cooke said. As the University turned its attention towards freshmen on the recommendation of the Committee on Yale College Education in 2003, Miller said, the disparity between freshmen and sophomore advising became more obvious.

Sophomore Class Council President Omar Njie ’13 said he has noticed the committee’s findings that students often do not put much thought into choosing sophomore advisers and often resort to asking teachers of large lectures. He said he supports the report’s recommendation to increase the number of seminars available to sophomores, and he has begun discussing the issue with administrators. But he said the council has not yet taken other actions.

The committee also suggested that the existing advising Web portal for sophomores — which includes information about prospective advisers — be expanded so faculty can readily access information about their students. While Miller said the Yale College Dean’s Office is “very keen” on the proposal, she said designing such a tool is difficult in tight economic times.

“Creating a full rollout of a robust advising Web portal has budgetary implications,” she said, “but having the report helps make our case for the resources for a full rollout.”

Five of seven students interviewed said they do not interact with their advisers very often, though all seven said they are generally satisfied with advising at Yale. Cynthia Weaver ’12 said she uses her advisers to confirm choices she already made on her own, adding that she sees how the system may be ill-suited for someone who needs more attention.

“Advisors don’t come after you, so you have to be proactive,” she said.

Up next for the committee is an investigation of the sophomore year, said current committee chairwoman Karen Wynn. The report, which will investigate ways to simplify the process of choosing a major, add more seminars for sophomores and combat “sophomore slump,” will be completed in two years.

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