Mixed feelings about academic advising

Is academic advising helpful or harmful?
Is academic advising helpful or harmful?

By Johnathan Jena

In recent interviews with students at Fitchburg State University, half said they were satisfied with the effectiveness of their advisors, whereas the other half said they were displeased with the quality of the advising process.

“My advisors have always kept all appointments I have made with them,” states Jeffery Pintabona, a sophomore at Fitchburg State University. Contrary to this, junior Billy Auger said, “I would rather have a 20-30 minute advising session,” and that he ends up “feeling rushed to make decisions.” During the interview process, it was found that upperclassmen felt general dissatisfaction with their advisors and offered suggestions to improve the advising process. Interestingly, all of the students interviewed in their freshman or sophomore years reported being satisfied with their advising experience.

On the positive side of the spectrum, Emily Shultz., a sophomore undergraduate, recounts that “My advisor gives me plenty of time to meet with her and discuss which classes I would like to take.” Favorable responses to the quality of advising are mixed with negative experiences, but the advising practices and organization cause feedback to be dependent on individual experiences rather than a collective response.

Faculty member and English professor Elisabet Takehana provides one suggestion to ease advising: “In general, the degree evaluation sheet could be organized more clearly.” In her experience as an advisor, she claims that, “The advising process is only as productive as the advisors and students themselves are proactive.”

In response to the drawbacks of the current advising process, some students and members of faculty gave suggestions to improve the way advising was run. One junior who attends at FSU said,  “Maybe we should have a ‘meet your advisor day,’ because some students have trouble scheduling their appointments and do not feel a close connection with their advisors.” Auger, in expressing concern over the effectiveness of advising, proposed an intro to using the Web4 system, saying, “I wish the system could’ve been more intuitive and easier to navigate.”

Takehana confessed to her chagrin that the degree evaluation “is even hard for some faculty members to use.” She, in correlation to the observation of the students, said, “Students should not think of their advisor as merely someone who gives them a PIN number and tells them they are organized and on the right track, but as mentors, who walk with students every step of the way and support them not only in their schedules, but in doing all they can to be successful in their prospective careers.”

Without a defined process and formalized training, the effectiveness of the advising process is placed upon the individual advisors and students themselves. This misplacement of responsibility and the confusing layout of Web4 results in mixed reactions among students and faculty overall, a result which is less promising than what the advising process at Fitchburg State University has the potential to be.