University of Wisconsin-Superior
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880
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Campus Life Spotlight: Advisement is Upon Us!
It is once again that time of the year. Appointment signup sheets are posted on office doors. General panic fills the air, on this campus and on many others as well... it is registration time. Given that the academic catalog is published online, and is readily available in locations around campus, why do we bother with advising appointments? Surely students functioning as autonomous adults can pick up the catalog, give it a quick read, and figure out their degree plans on their own? They can, but that is not the only reason we bring them in. In fact, it is not even the most important reason.
At UW-Superior, all students are required to meet with their academic advisors to get a hold released before they are cleared to register for classes. For some advanced students, this is often a formality - they know what they are doing, they know why, and they have a pretty solid idea of the path they are on. For 350 new freshmen and 260 new transfer students starting on our campus this fall, this will be their first experience with individualized academic advising at UW-Superior. It is an opportunity for students to meet with their faculty, to engage with them and get to know them. Even more importantly, this will give them the opportunity to form the foundation of an important student-mentor relationship that will persist as they continue their educational career at this institution, and often well after they graduate.
Over 170 years ago, administrators at Kenyon College stipulated that "each student must choose a faculty member to be an advisor and friend, as well as a medium of communication with the faculty" (Hardee, 2000). This was a logical progression within the historical aims of an undergraduate education: to involve the student with the faculty, and to involve the student with the content of their chosen course of study (Frost, 2000).
Since then researchers extensively studied the relationship between advisor and student, and have found strong evidence to support the continued mission of faculty-led academic advising. Students involved in regular faculty-student interaction demonstrate:
· Increased persistence
· Increased academic success
· Higher rates of retention
· Higher rates of satisfaction
Clearly the relationship between faculty and students matters and is critical to their continued success (Pascarella 1991, Astin, 1993 & Tinto, 1987).
With this in mind, I submit that the requirement for "advising" before registration is what gets students in the doors. Now what? Advising can (and should!) be more than just course selection. How do you parlay this contact with students into something bigger and better? This is our chance to have the more substantial and meaty conversations: Why are you choosing this major? What are your plans for after college? Do you understand the differences between a university education and a trade school education, or the differences between wanting to earn an education and just "taking classes to get them over with"? How can we help you develop and grow as a member of this community of learners?
By making the mental shift from "advising as course selection" to "advising as mentoring," we move away from a view of advising as a chore, as something we are required to do, and towards a view of advising as a part of our teaching role, something we get to do, and something that aids in retention and the development of our students.
Astin, Alexander W. 1993. What Matters in College?: Four Critical Years Revisited. Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Frost, S. H. 2000. "Historical and philosophical foundations for academic advising." Academic advising: A Comprehensive Handbook 3-17. Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Hardee, Melvene. 2000. Faculty Advising in Colleges and Universities. American Personnel & Guidance Association.
Pascarella, Ernest T. 1991. How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Tinto, Vincent. 1987. Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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