Beginning this fall, the residential college advising system will change in an effort to make the advising process for freshmen and sophomores less “transactional” and more holistic.
In an April 12 email to residential college leaders and fellows, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway wrote that the changes to residential college advising are based on recommendations from two reports from the Committee on Advising, Placement and Enrollment, which suggested several modifications in the hopes of shifting the advising process toward one that offers guidance about more than just academics. Changes include expanding the pool of advisers, allowing students to remain with their freshman adviser for a second year, eliminating paperwork and group meetings and providing centralized adviser training through the Yale College Dean’s Office.
“There’s just so much untapped potential on both sides of the equation when it comes to advising, and we’re trying to tap some of it,” Holloway said.
Risa Sodi, director of advising and special programs, said the number of college advisers for the class of 2021 will be roughly equivalent to the number of freshman advisers this year, even though the freshman class size will expand by about 200. There have been approximately 450 freshman advisers for the past three years, and this number is likely to stay about the same, she added.
The announcement of advising changes comes after over a year and a half of feedback and consultation from college heads and deans, who have been receptive to the modifications, Holloway said. CAPE held several focus groups with undergraduates, as well as meetings with heads and deans of residential colleges, directors of undergraduate studies and administrators in the Dean’s Office, Sodi added.
“College advisers will also be able to help their advisees think through the many choices they’ll face — from academics to extracurricular activities — and, to the extent they’re able, to point them to other appropriate resources on campus,” Sodi said. “Since first-year students will be able to select their own college adviser as early as their second term at Yale, this new college advising system also gives students more agency in determining their advisers than they had in the past.”
Among the biggest changes is the elimination of the beginning of the year group meeting between advisers and their advisees in favor of students and advisers setting up a time to meet individually. More drastically, college advisers will no longer have to approve students’ course schedules, as residential college deans already provide guidance for meeting academic requirements, Holloway said. He added that students will still be expected to meet with their advisers at the beginning of each term, and ideally throughout the year, to talk about both academic and personal goals.
“Within the next year or two, I anticipate that schedules will become paperless, as CAPE has recommended, but until then advisers will continue to sign schedules, not to approve them but simply to show that they have met with their advisees,” Holloway said.
Allowing students to stay with their freshman adviser for two years means that the terms “freshman adviser” and “sophomore adviser” will be replaced with “college adviser,” which also signals the relationship between the individuals and their colleges, Holloway said.
The CAPE reports also emphasized the importance of advisers taking an interest in their advisees’ overall transition to college, rather than just their academic requirements. The changes to the system aim to facilitate broader conversations during the transitional period before students need more focused advising for their chosen major, according to Holloway.
“What it would look like, I would say, in a perfect world in two or three years, [is that] you have a system where you have experienced adults who understand Yale’s ins and outs, who are able to talk with advisees and say, ‘Look, these are things to think about as you transition to Yale, into college; these are some broad ideals about why we have a liberal arts system, why you have to take these whole buffet of types of classes,’” Holloway said.
Training under the new system will be run by the Yale College Dean’s Office, but residential college deans and heads will maintain their close relationships with the advisers in their college, Sodi said. She added that the Dean’s Office plans to offer more training sessions before the start of each term, possibly starting as early as this spring and picking up again at the end of the summer.
Currently, the system of preparing advisers varies across the residential colleges and often involves the distribution of talking points and information packets, Holloway said. He added that during his time in Calhoun, he knew of many advisers who did not attend those information sessions because they had been advising for many years, but the frequency of even minor changes in curricula and requirements make it important that all advisers be “on the same page.”
Paul McKinley, director of strategic communications for Yale College and a former dean of Saybrook College, said that in the past, colleges have usually met with advisers to give them guiding materials for the process and provide an opportunity for experienced advisers to share tips with their colleagues.
Holloway said that the advising process has become “transactional,” with students finding out their assigned faculty member and meeting with them mostly for schedule-signing purposes. Although residential colleges have encouraged their advisers to engage their students on issues extending beyond academics, such as broader college life, these changes were never formalized or centralized, he added.
“Now by creating these sort of structural changes — ‘college adviser’ instead of ‘freshman adviser,’ facilitating ways for advisees to find a better match in terms of area of interest as soon as possible or to hang on with less challenge to an adviser for the sophomore year — we’re really hoping that we are creating more opportunities for more holistic advising to happen,” Holloway said.
The pool of advisers has expanded to include nonladder, multiyear instructors, who interact with students frequently. Holloway said he and Stephen Davis, head of Pierson College, wrote to these non-tenure-track faculty members in January, and those who accepted have been placed as advisers in all 14 residential colleges.
Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors will not be affected by these changes, McKinley said. According to Holloway, rising sophomores have already been instructed to select new advisers for the coming year. He added that structural changes always take a few years to become natural.
“The ones who are going to be most affected are the ones who are just coming, so it’s the only thing that they’ll know,” McKinley said.