Deans Office pilots advising programs
By Lindsay Ellis, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Two pilot advising initiatives will supplement existing Deans Office programs this academic year, easing freshmen’s transition into academic life at Dartmouth, according to Inge-Lise Ameer, associate dean of the College for student academic support services. A consolidated advising center will open at the beginning of Winter term, though its location is not yet public, Ameer said.
Advising 360, a pilot program for several floors in the Choates residential cluster, combines current advising structures for participating students, according to Daniel Smith, the Choates’ community director.
Each participating floor’s undergraduate advisor received two-day intensive training and now serves as an “academic UGA,” he said. During this training, the academic UGAs addressed advising scenarios and became familiar with deans and the College’s support offices.
“Typically a student would expect to go to the UGA for life crises, roommate conflicts and general questions about class and campus,” Smith said. “They’ll still be able to do all of that, but now they’re setting up meetings to talk about academic advising in addition to regular advising.”
Samuel Tan Jun Jie ’14, an academic UGA who was previously a UGA, said he noticed that students feel more comfortable talking to him than they did last year.
“They know I’m a trained resource, a special resource,” he said. “People just walk in and discuss things.”
Academic UGAs will meet individually with the students on their floor for 30 minutes each term to talk about their academics, Tan said.
Advising 360 will send regular emails to the 100 students and 10 faculty advisor participants about dates and deadlines of the academic calendar, according to Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Natalie Hoyt.
Student participants will receive the same information from their dean as well, just as non-participating students do. In this program, however, the faculty advisors also will be kept in the loop, Hoyt said.
About 50 students attended an orientation lunch with their faculty advisors before their advising sessions, which enhanced session conversations by breaking the ice beforehand, according to Hoyt.
“One faculty member said the conversation was richer, that they were able to move beyond the basics,” Hoyt said.
Mayer Schein ’16 lives on a participating floor and said that though his advisor was helpful through the course selection process, Advising 360 does not feel different than what he imagines a typical advising program would resemble.
The 100 students were notified several days after arriving on campus that they would participate in Academic 360, Schein said.
The academic UGA, a faculty advisor and an undergraduate dean create participants’ “network” of advisors, which should prepare students for future study, according to an Advising 360 brochure.
“We’re sharing expectations with the advisee and the advisor to coordinate systems of support,” Hoyt said. “It’s a bit more intentional. If we improve the resources in this way, students will be more proactive in their advising experience.”
Because academic UGAs will work closely with deans and faculty members, they will be able to consistently distribute correct information to first-year students, Smith said.
Later in the year, programming will engage the academic UGAs and faculty participants, he said.
Academic 360 focuses current programming to better serve students rather than providing certain students with extra opportunities, Smith said.
“Sometimes in pilot programs, you give people something really awesome, or it seems like you’re taking something away, but in this program it’s a great combination,” he said.
Administrators will compare participating students’ experiences with those not in the program to see if the program will be sustainable in future years, Ameer said.
Student Assembly’s first-year peer mentoring program is the second new advising program implemented this fall, for which 286 first-year students in the Fahey-McLane residential cluster were paired with 135 upperclassman mentors for the academic year, according to Student Body President Suril Kantaria ’13.
Kantaria worked with Ameer last spring, and the Assembly finalized the program this summer. Kantaria said he sees the program as a supplement to faculty advising.
“Faculty are incredible resources for freshmen coming in, but students can be equally useful,” he said.
This program would not replace existing mentoring programs like Link Up and the First Year Student Enrichment Program, nor would it replace regular UGAs, Kantaria said.
“This is very different from what UGAs do,” he said. “It’s one-on-one advising where the mentors are extremely invested in the success of their mentees.”
This year, faculty, deans and the Registrar’s Office have access to a Blackboard site with advising information, Margaret Funnell, assistant dean of the faculty for undergraduate research, said.
The site, which includes important links such as the Writing 5 selection page and information on pre-health tracks, aims to fill knowledge gaps for first-year students’ advisors.
“You might have a student in the sciences with someone in the French department,” Funnell said. “They can’t know everything.”
The site also offers tips for the course registration process, like that the Google Chrome browser does not support course election, Funnell said.
Four assistant deans of undergraduate students joined the College last fall, creating a more appropriate student-to-dean ratio, Hoyt said.
With the new hires, the College aims to deliver information and help to students in the best possible manner, according to Funnell. Part of this, she said, is shifting to a more proactive advising format, as opposed to a reactive method.
“The larger numbers and bigger programs help students think up front about what they’re doing, which in the long term should reduce crises,” Funnell said. “With a small number of deans they’re only able to deal with students in crisis.”
Funnell said that the College is spending roughly double what it previously had in the Deans Office to support the new hires.
“Programming’s expensive, but that’s not an issue. The College is willing to ante up money to make these kinds of things work,” she said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to have students have the best experience they can.”
Dartmouth faces a different set of problems than many other universities, given the nature of Dartmouth students and the College’s D-Plan, Funnell said. The College does not focus on retention and graduation rates in its advising.
“The issues we’re trying to address are at a higher level, to create the best experience,” Funnell said.
On-campus advising is frequently considered an obligation rather than an opportunity, and programs like Advising 360 can help students take advantage of campus resources, Tan said.
“I think it’s common knowledge that academic advising is not strong,” he said. “People don’t realize these resources until it’s too late.”