I advise you to see your adviser

Academic advisers encourage students and make sense of a bureaucratic University.

by Nora Leinen

Advising may be where students at the University of Minnesota experience the most direct kind of service and where the product of our educational expenses are displayed for us. Classes can have up to 250 students at a time, teachers may be focused on research and your friends will most likely be in different majors, if not different colleges. But for up to 30 minutes once or twice a semester, we sit down, look someone in the eye and talk about our education. Advising is important to what encompasses a quality education. What weâÄôre paying for includes someone other than ourselves who is personally invested in our future and cares whether we graduate. The question is: Are we getting our moneyâÄôs worth? It seems that while there are still some issues, overall satisfaction with advising is pretty good. The major issues that persist include lack of interdisciplinary knowledge by advisers, lack of communication between college and department advisers and the feeling that advisers are not personally committed. The College of Liberal Arts is focused on building more personal relationships between students and advisers with programs like advisee tracking through the new Enrollment Tracking System, Les Opatz, assistant director of advising for CLA Student Services, said. ETS has helped advisers stay on top of their adviseesâÄô academic decisions, like if a student drops a class or fails to register for certain classes. By combining several different data sources, advisers can now easily be aware of their studentsâÄô activities âÄî or inactivity, depending on the situation. Also, CLA in particular is focused on keeping students with the same adviser from orientation through graduation. However, Opatz said it is sometimes not possible, especially in the case of a student switching colleges. Despite the emphasis placed on personal contact and investment in advising departments, students still feel that advisers donâÄôt have a personal grasp on their educations. âÄúTheyâÄôre really nice people, and you can have a real conversation with them,âÄù Daniel Levine, a second-year biomedical engineering student, said. âÄúBut they only know me for five minutes.âÄù Levine expressed that although his adviser was aware of his grades or the classes he had taken, they had little to no idea about his personal strengths or interests. Levine is thinking about switching majors. He knows he doesnâÄôt want to be in IT anymore, but he doesnâÄôt know where he wants to transfer or what major he wants to switch to. Levine said he found a binder in the Career and Community Learning Center Resource Room in Johnston Hall called âÄúWhat Can I Do with a Major In … ?âÄù the most helpful resource so far in his major quest. However, Levine wishes his adviser, who is currently in the IT school, had mentioned the information in the binders or had pointed him in that direction. The adviserâÄôs inaction could be due to the fact that the binders are focused on and issued by CLA, not IT. Maddie Poppke, a third-year English major, said she wishes there was more communication between colleges and departments. When she experiences a hold on her account, she isnâÄôt always sure which adviser she has to see to clear the hold. Poppke, who is trying to switch to pre-dental hygiene, feels that her advisers didnâÄôt provide any information she couldnâÄôt have found herself. âÄúThe people I met with didnâÄôt give me any new perspective or advice or counseling,âÄù said Poppke. And she may have a point. Almost all of the information about major requirements, graduation requirements, major and department course offerings can be found online or in supplemental materials put out by the advising departments. So when the information is easily accessible and a data system exists that can track student progress and flag problems, what is left for the adviser to do? All of these technological and supplementary resources beg the question, is the adviser really necessary? Despite an overload of students, which can reach upward of 400 per adviser, Opatz said, and despite the sometimes generic nature of the information, even assuming increasingly independent college students, the answer is yes. If youâÄôve known that you have wanted to be a nurse since you were 3, advisers still serve a purpose: confidence. The University is a huge place, larger than many of the hometowns students come from. The sheer size coupled with the amount of choices can be daunting, especially because the University is constantly changing policies, introducing initiatives and enhancing its programs. Sometimes itâÄôs good to hear that you need to step up and take some more classes if youâÄôre running behind, and sometimes itâÄôs just good to hear youâÄôre doing all right. And sometimes itâÄôs good to know someone âÄî anyone besides yourself âÄî is invested in your education. Nora Leinen welcomes comments at [email protected]