Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Advising blues

When I read the Michael's post on the flaws of the CCAS advising system, I finally felt that I had some company. I remember very fondly an experience I had at the beginning of the semester with the advising system - and it was not a particularly bad one, but it was nonetheless pretty memorable.

Admittedly, I had not chosen my courses very carefully and ended up needing to drop something about three or four weeks into the semester (and I needed to replace this with another class). I consulted with the Columbian College advisers, who basically told me things that I knew and some things that were a bit condescending.

Their two observations about my planned schedule change were: a) that I would be a full-time student even with just dropping the one course, and b) that I was taking two upper 100-level classes as a freshman. To this latter point they seemed fearful, asking me if I was alright, comfortable, etc. in those classes since, according to them, "we usually advise freshman against taking them".

(Did I mention that one of these classes was SMPA 194?)

Of course they did not forbid me from changing my schedule - they cannot do that given the absence of an academic hold or some upper-level restriction. But the entire experience felt too impersonal, extremely business-as-usual (this was walk-in advising, so there was no real connection between the adviser and I) and just overall not extremely helpful.

I had already known that my full-time status would not be jeopardized, and I was looking for guidance about whether or not this change would be a good one to fulfill my remaining General Curriculum Requirements. Saying that the change would still fulfill a GCR is not exactly helpful - it is useful information to be sure, but I wanted the adviser to give me a personal recommendation of whether or not this was a specifically smart move. This is what I never got.

And then later that day I visit the Elliott School of International Affairs to inquire about the possibility of a completing a double major in a school that I'm not actually in right now. The academic planning aside, I was simply blown away by the quality of their advising system - it was professionalized, personal and I definitely felt like I was being taken care of to the nth degree. They were easily able to answer all of the questions I had, and I could tell that these advisers did this for a living. And their office suite was not parallel to anything else I had ever seen on campus, especially not the fear-inducing bureaucratic-appearing CCAS suite in Phillips Hall.

It was just very interesting that I was more than accommodated in a school that I'm not even enrolled in -- and that in the one I am enrolled in, my experience was not up to par to say the least.

I agree with Michael when he said that the Hatchet hit the nail on the head. Their expository piece on the CCAS advising system, though it is not surprising, is thoroughly disheartening. The following quote sums up the huge problem:
The school only employs nine professional advisers, including a director, for more than 5,200 students. There are also a few advisers who only see pre-med and pre-law students. The rest of CCAS's advising responsibilities are left to faculty advisers who also juggle teaching, grading, researching and holding office hours of their own.
So it is obvious - the adviser-student ratio is so woefully low, and as a consequence of this, advising becomes less and less personalized.

Nathan Brill from the Student Association says it right, as he seems to echo my exact sentiments about my experience:
Many incoming students are looking for a more engaging and personable relationship with their adviser so that they can get more tailored advising about courses and scheduling, the survey stated. Unfortunately, most (advisers) are so busy that students are rushed in, rushed out, don't feel at all welcome and are pressured to leave without having all their questions answered.
The similarity to what I experienced just seems uncanny. But apparently, Columbian has begun to consider how to overhaul the system, as the Hatchet is reporting that an advisory committee is close to releasing recommendations for such a procedure.

I just hope that these recommendations are sound, clear and feasible so that we can implement a system that will satisfy students and will also be on the same level as the advising systems of the other schools at GW.

Because really, isn't it really a remarkable travesty that I can get a better advising experience in ESIA, in which I take no classes at all?


Anonymous said...

you spelled advising wrong in the subject line...just letting you know.

Anonymous said...

Advising is so bad at CCAS! Though I'm positive on GW as a whole, when talking to potential students I always warm them about how lacking we are in advising...