UWRF seeks to improve student advising
November 9, 2006
Advising appointments are supposed to help students plan and evaluate academic and career goals, but the recent concerns of some faculty and students have led UW-River Falls officials to look into improving the process.
“To a small extent there’s been some dissatisfaction with advising,” Faculty Advising Committee Chair Brian Schultz said. “Some of it is faculty driven to gain consistency.”
The faculty problems are due to confusion regarding the constantly changing online course catalog and deficient advising guidelines, Schultz said.
The Faculty Advising Committee met twice this semester, and is planning another meeting in December to discuss advising guidelines and assess the role, scope and expectations of advising at UWRF. In previous years the committee met once per semester.
Schultz also serves as associate dean of the College of Business and Economics - a position that has allowed him to hear student complaints regarding advising.
“I’ve had students come to me and say they weren’t getting a clear message from their advisor,” he said.
Schultz and Academic Advisor Justin Hauer went to UW-Madison Oct. 27 to attend an advising workshop with the hope of gaining ideas from other universities that could be applied at UWRF.
“We’re probably at step one-half in this process,” Schultz said. “Part of the impetus of what we’re doing here is to get more consistency so students don’t hear four different things from four different people.”
UWRF junior Jerome McNamara is one student who said he has had issues with advising.
“I haven’t had effective advising experiences,” McNamara said.
When he had a problem, his advisor seemed to blow it off, he said.
“They weren’t very insightful,” McNamara said. “The best I got was, ‘Figure it out.’”
The Degree Audit Report (DAR) is a commonly used tool to track academic progress, but it can cause confusion.
“I know if I didn’t meet with my advisor I’d be lost,” senior Kelly Hurley said. “I don’t know how to read my DAR without my advisor.”
Yet advising experiences depend on the advisor and student.
“They like it when you know what you want,” senior Ryan Stovern said. “The better prepared you are, the better it works.”
A few students said they believe advising would be a better experience if their advisors took the time to know their aspirations.
“I don’t think it would hurt if my advisor knew me a little better,” senior Tyler Hasse said. “It’s just as much on my shoulders as it would be on hers.”
But with advising appointments being as short as 15 minutes, the time for pleasantries is often limited.
“In terms of being more personal, most advisors would like to know more ... like goals the student has,” Schultz said. “But they don’t want to delve too much into their personal life.”
UWRF faculty advisors have anywhere from 10 to 50 advisees, Schultz said.
International Studies Chair Wes Chapin often has more than 100 advising appointments each semester, seeing some students multiple times.
Chapin was selected by students as one of the College of Arts and Sciences advisors of the year.
“I think that most faculty and staff would agree that there is no single approach to advising that will work well with every student in every situation,” Chapin said. “I also think that sharing ideas and information about successful advising approaches is something that can be beneficial to all advisors, whether they are new or experienced.”
Yet problems with advising seem to be the exception, not the rule.
“My advisor knows exactly where I am with my classes and which ones I should take,” Hurley said.
Though some students have difficulty reading their DAR, others make full use of the reports and eSIS to plan their academic careers. For those students, advising appointments take on a different meaning.
“There should still be meetings,” Schultz said. “Other things could be discussed — internships, post-graduate plans.”
The Advising Committee’s goal is to have definitive advising expectations for every department by the end of the year.
“We’d like common goals or outcomes for advising across campus,” Schultz said. “It is more than just printing off a DAR and looking at pluses and minuses."