Letter to the Editor

In response to the article “Advising Shouldn’t Be Mandatory” printed on April 9:

Ms. Ebert begins her article by sharing her own advising experiences. She writes, “I went to my advising session last week with my Degree Progress Report in hand and the rest of my time at UWSP planned. I knew which classes I need to graduate and when I plan to take them. I spent less than five minutes in my adviser’s office.” If only it were that simple for other students at UWSP, then maybe her argument about making advising optional would make sense.

However, we do not live in a world where everyone understands their DPR, where everyone has the rest of their time at UWSP planned, or where they even know which classes they need to take. Advising should be twofold, registration and class planning is only one part of good advising. The other part, as many  commenters have pointed out, involves supporting students as they navigate college.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve worked at the Student Academic Advising Center for the last three years. I also began with a declared major which has never changed, though I did add two minors along the way. I’ve experienced a range of advising sessions, from those similar to Ms. Ebert’s description to ones where I truly felt supported in my ever-confusing career journey.

I have experienced both great and subpar advising, and I am also only one of several hundred students to experience the Student Academic Advising Center. However, it is unique that I am one of only a few to see the center through a student employee’s eyes.

To say advising is just checking off boxes on a DPR for undeclared students is untrue.

My contact with students is primarily to help them understand what the timetable is, what the acronym DPR even means, where the Course Catalog is located and how to plan a schedule. Most students are very grateful. Sure, many students come in understanding these basics, but many do not. What happens to those who don’t understand and have no one to turn to?

If the argument for making advising optional is that it is just a “checkmark”, what does one say to the student that doesn’t know where the timetable is, much less how to work it? Advising sessions can be quick for those of us who know how to work the logistics of registration, but for those who do not, it is invaluable.

Those who hope confused students would turn to the optional advising are optimistic, perhaps misguided. There are many students who need mandatory advising so they don’t fall through the cracks.

Good advising is proven to help retention. According to an article written by Charlie L. Nutt, the Executive Director of the National Academic Advising Association, “Two critical factors in students’ decisions to remain enrolled until the attainment of their goals are their successfully making the transition to college aided by initial and extended orientation and advisement programs and making positive connections with college personnel during their first term of enrollment.”

The reason peer advisers help with the basics of registration, as well as getting students started on career exploration, is because they give undeclared students more time with professional advisers. These advising sessions are certainly not five minute, check the box, only for formality types of meetings. These meetings are where advisers check in on students who have six different fields of interest. This is where advisers give specific advice on exploratory courses to undeclared students. This is also where advisers provide support and guidance to students who typically feel frustrated and embarrassed when the inevitable, “What’s your major?” question comes up in every first day of class.

I cannot get behind the idea that since some of us view advising as a box to check that the center should be cut and advising should be optional. This view is formed by a misunderstanding of the long-term goals of advising.

Advising isn’t meant to be one more hoop to jump through before registering; it is meant to be a support system. The fact that parts of UWSP fall short of this goal is no reason that the university should abandon these ideals altogether; rather, this should be yet another reason to support the growth and maintenance of good advising on campus.

 

Leah Aeby

laeby872@uwsp.edu

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