A team of consultants from the National Academic Advising Association visited the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point last spring.
The association conducted a comprehensive, in-depth assessment of the university’s academic advising program.
During their visit, the association recommended the elimination of mandatory advising. They felt that there were many underlying problems with the policy hindering the development of a functional academic advising program.
“We invited the external review of advising in response to student concerns about the consistency of academic advising across campus,” said Provost Greg Summers. “We are determined to provide students the best learning experience possible, and we have recognized that advising is a key area where we might improve our collective effort.”
One of the downsides that the association brought up about mandatory advising is that both the student and advisor tend to connect advising with registration since the time for the meeting is usually done just before a student can register for the next semester. Meetings are generally short and consist of the advisor approving students’ schedules and allowing them to register.
“Essentially, they argue that to require this advising appointment reduces the advising experience to mere course selection rather than a more comprehensive mentoring,” Summers said. “Students would be allowed to register without meeting their advisors, and they would assume a greater responsibility for ensuring they remained on track in fulfilling requirements for their degrees.”
Haley Osborn, a UWSP senior, agrees.
“I don’t think advising shouldbe mandatory except for freshman, because, let’s face it, they have no clue what they’re doing and need that extra help. We’ve all been there and know that to be true, but we get the hang of it eventually,” Osborn said.
Having this policy assures that students are seen by an advisor and that important exchanges can occur, but the advising association shows that these appointments need to focus more on advising rather than schedule approval, and students should be able to access their advisors as much as they need in order to discuss academics.
“I think once a semester is fine and then the second time should be an option,” Osborn said. “Most students should know when they need extra advice or are pretty good about handling their classes and schedules on their own.”
Jordan Lenzner, a senior, agrees.
“I sometimes find advising useful, but usually only if I have specific questions,” Lenzner said.
Summers is currently in the process of putting together a new advising council to consider the various recommendations in the report.
“The advising council will focus initially on helping me to implement the many recommendations proposed,” Summers said.
The elimination of academic advising is still up in the air. At a minimum, the campus would need to develop much stronger supporting materials, especially electronic resources, so students would be able to assume responsibility for their progress toward their degrees.
This would include comprehensive four-year pathways for each degree available on campus among other resources.
“I can’t predict if it will happen or not at all,” Summers said. “Such a proposal would need a broad campus conversation and the input of both faculty and student governance.”