When Melissa Noyes transferred here from St. Lawrence University, the registration process confused her. When she met with her adviser in Advising Services, she discovered that she was not the only one.
The adviser struggled to interpret Noyes’ transfer record and repeatedly consulted a handbook to see what the basic requirements were.
“He didn’t seem to know what he was doing at all,” said Noyes.
The situation continued to decline after the spring semester of that year, when Noyes decided to declare a major. Her adviser assured her that he would file the paperwork, but when she attempted to register for fall classes, she discovered that he had not followed through. She went back to Advising Services, where she was told that the adviser no longer worked there and her paperwork was gone.
“I was fairly disgusted with the situation. He was not only disorganized, but unprofessional,” said Noyes, now a junior communication major.
Many students have had problems getting the advice they need from their advisers, and while the University has some changes in mind for the future, it is unclear whether these problems will be addressed.
For Sharon Moore, a junior sociology major, a breakdown in communication with advisers caused financial distress as well as frustration. As a new student she was not familiar with advising services and registered for classes on her own. She soon realized that she had selected the wrong courses and decided to make some changes. Unfortunately, Moore was not aware of the add/drop process. She was billed for all of the classes and because she had not attended all semester, received failing grades in those courses she had opted not to take.
“Not only did I have to pay for it, I had to quit school,” said Moore.
Eventually Moore returned to the University, explained her situation to the president, and was introduced to Susan Campbell of Advising Services. Although Moore has since declared a major, she has continued to visit Advising Services instead of a faculty adviser.
“[Susan Campbell] really got me out of a tight jam,” she said.
Jean Kerrigan, assistant director of Advising Services, acknowledges that mistakes do happen when it comes to advising.
“Do we goof up sometimes? Probably,” she said.
Still, Kerrigan believes that her department is ultimately working well for students. She stresses the importance of building a relationship between advisers and students in making the advising experience positive.
“There is a caringness that I know I put out and I have to think others do too. If we could just see it [advising] as a partnership, it would help,” said Kerrigan.
Once students declare a major, they are assigned advisers within their chosen department. Many students feel this arrangement is more helpful because the professors are familiar with the students’ programs.
Amy VonVett, a freshman theater major, said she has had a very positive experience with her faculty adviser, whom she sees as a mentor. VonVett knew she wanted to be in theater when she arrived at the University, but needed guidance.
“I knew what my goals were, but I didn’t know how to attain those goals,” she said.
VonVett also said her adviser has made herself available for discussion, not only during office hours, but in the classroom as well.
“We connect on that student-teacher level,” she says.
Not everyone has had such good luck with faculty advisers.
Jerry Morin is a freshman double major in biology and chemistry. Although he has a faculty adviser for each major, he has a difficult time getting in touch with either one of them. Morin called one adviser three times during the fall semester. The professor has yet to return his calls.
For professors at the end of a busy semester, it can be difficult to make time for advisees, but Julien Murphy, a philosophy professor and faculty adviser, believes that advising is an integral part of a professor’s job.
“It’s not like an extra duty,” she said. “There’s some really rewarding pieces in advising for professors.”
Like Jean Kerrigan, Murphy believes that advising is a give-and-take process and encourages students to seek out their advisers.
“Like any interpersonal event, both players can determine the quality and content of the event,” she says.
Provost Joe Wood is proposing a plan to streamline the advising process, at least for undeclared students. According to this plan, Advising Services will be coordinated with the Division of Academic Support under the supervision of an associate provost and would not affect the faculty advising process. Provost Wood is waiting for recommendations from the two departments involved before making any other changes, but he believes the system is working well in its current incarnation.
“I’m not aware of any complaints about advising,” he says.
Student Senate Treasurer Justin LaBerge is less convinced that the advising process is working for students. He believes that Advising Services is disorganized. He worries about new students who depend on the department for advice.
“[New students] just jump and run and do what they say,” says LaBerge.
Regardless of the advising system’s organizational shortcomings, LaBerge is reassuring. “I don’t think anyone in Advising Services is out to get anyone.”
Meghan Conley can be contacted at [email protected]