I read with interest the opinion piece “Advising Shouldn’t Be Mandatory” in the April 10th edition of The Pointer. As an academic advisor in the proposed-to-be-cut Student Academic Advising Center, I have a very different definition of advising.
To many students, and sadly, many faculty advisors, advising is simply course selection based on a DPR. Professional advisors think of it as much more than that. We want to know how the student is doing in their current classes, because that affects their course selection for the upcoming semester; what minors or elective courses they’re considering that will complement their major/career goals or satisfy a curiosity; what out-of-classroom experiences they’re engaged in that help them practice the critical-thinking, problem-solving skills they’re learning in the classroom; what career fields they’re considering and what strategies they’re using to prepare themselves for those directions. And if they’re not considering any of the above, we feel it’s our responsibility to get them started thinking about those things.
In the Student Academic Advising Center, we help students who are on a wide continuum of undecidedness. Some are totally clueless about what they want to study. Others are uncertain whether a four year degree is right for them. Others are experiencing high levels of anxiety because they’ve just discovered the major they originally declared is not what they thought it would be and they have no Plan B. Others are interested in 3-5 majors in 4 different colleges. Even if we “…consider changing advising to relieve professors taking on extra duties.”, I question whether faculty advisors have the patience and expertise to effectively advise and inspire undecided students whose interests are outside their own expertise.
This is also an equity issue. Some UWSP students come to campus and find they can easily navigate the university environment. Others, however, struggle for various reasons. Some are the first in their families to attend college and can’t rely on their parents for answers to their questions; others are academically under-prepared or are in “culture shock”. They often don’t know what help they need to overcome these challenges. This is why mandatory advising is so important. We owe it to these students to provide quality advising services that help them adjust to college life and make informed decisions about their major and career paths so that they graduate in a timely manner with as little debt as possible, which is much more than just course selection.