Thursday, January 25, 2007

Advising Fields Issues

In my department we get assigned advisees in one of two basic ways. When students register for the first time during summer advising, if they're ready to declare a major, the summer advisor assigns an advisor and sets the major. If they come to the department to declare an English major at some other time, our undergrad director sees them and assigns them an appropriate advisor.

We have five (!) emphases in our department, and each advisor advises in only one emphasis. As a lit advisor, for example, I don't advise Creative Writing emphasis students.

Over the course of this academic year, I've had a number of new students (four or five) come in and tell me that while they see from their paperwork that although they're signed up as lit emphasis students, they should be signed up as something else. Unfortunately, by the time they tell me this, I've spent 15 minutes or so prepping to meet with them for the first time, and then I have a choice. I could just tell them to change their major, get a new advisor, make a new appointment, and get their registration code then.

Doing that would force them to officially get a new advisor quickly, but it would also put them through a load of running around when they're already stressed for time (since they usually remember to make an advising appointment at the last minute). On the other hand, they'd be seen by someone who could advise them easily, a good thing. For better or worse, having gone through the trouble of prepping, I do their advising, get them their code, and tell them to officially change their major at their convenience. Mostly, that's okay. I pass along their advising folder and notes when I learn of their new advisor (and IF; the system isn't perfect around here).

But with education emphasis students, things get more complicated. They're supposed to take some skills test very early in their career here, and have to take specific courses for their GEs in certain fields. So I usually have to get up and go ask one of the education advisors to make sure I'm not sending them into trouble.

A couple weeks ago when I did this, the education advisor I asked, P, asked me with more than a hint of impatience why I didn't learn the education advising and become an education advisor, didn't I want to learn? Um, no thanks; you see, I actually like literature and want to talk to people about literature. I'm invested in the lit program, having helped construct and organize it, and teaching in it. I don't want to learn about all the legal requirements for the education program. (Legislating educational requirements from without seems weird to me, but I suppose that's supposed to regularize things, right?)

Friday, I had another one of these students pop up, and since I have more first year advisees emailing about appointments at the last minute for this week, I'm guessing I'll have more. So I decided to actually try to figure out if there's a way to avoid the problem.

I started by asking our administrative assistant about how they handle things, and what they see. They handle the data entry only from our undergrad director; the summer folks get entered elsewhere. So I looked at the files again to see which forms (summer or undergrad director) were there, to see if there's a way to tell where the error happened.

And there, on all the forms, were signatures from P as summer advisor. So I went to ask P about the form, which doesn't actually have a place to write in the major, just the advisor's name. I asked if having a place to write the student's major on the form so they could see it would make them aware of which major they were being signed up for? And P said "they" don't fill out that form until months later (but it has P's signature and a date from the summer?). Apparently there's a second form I'm not seeing that says the major and advisor?

Let's just say, it was less than satisfying. But definitely NOT P's fault. Students lie. (Yes, but why all of a sudden several this semester, and about that? It's not like students don't come talk to me about changing their major or emphasis. These students are getting wrong advisor assignments.) Students are confused despite P's brilliant advising. P's upset at me for asking.

I still don't know where the problem's coming from: either the students didn't tell P the emphasis they wanted, P didn't hear them tell, or there was some other confusion. But P put my name down as their lit advisor, so the problem started somewhere in that meeting, and not with data entry.

I'm frustrated.


  1. Is P trying to avoid having more advisees?

  2. I don't know P, of course, but my first thought was the same as inside the philosophy factory's. Seems like P is trying to foist off students on other advisors. Or were you too kind to mention that?

  3. I actually think P's working in good faith, but was incredibly frustrated by something about the summer advising. Maybe P made the mistakes, or maybe something else was in play. But I still don't want to advise in P's field!