Forum advises better advising

Nina Petersen-Perlman

The University needs to focus resources on a comprehensive advising and career counseling program, according to attendees of an open forum on the student support task force.

Doing this is a way for the University to improve its ranking in polls that measure things like graduation and retention rates, attendees said.

The purpose of the meeting, which about 30 people attended, was to allow members of the public to comment on the task force recommendations released in December as part of the University’s realignment plan to become one of the top three public research universities in the world.

Task force member Amelious Whyte said many students don’t know what role their adviser should play in their education, and that can affect their general view of the University.

“Students don’t know why they need to see an adviser,” Whyte said.

Task force member Jeanne Higbee, a lecturer in educational policy and administration, said many students carry their misconceptions about advisers from high school to college.

“Students think they only need to see them if they’re in trouble or one of the “bad’ students,” Higbee said.

Task force members also discussed how an emphasis on academic and career advising would give undergraduates a better sense of connection to the University.

Task force member Carl Brandt, program director for the Career and Community Learning Center, said he’s encountered students who hadn’t received the best education possible because they saw the University as the place they go when they get off the bus.

“Students were telling us they didn’t know what it meant to be a student at the University of Minnesota,” Brandt said.

To improve advising campuswide, Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs, said the whole campus community needs to be involved and not just the faculty members.

“This is a learning environment,” Rinehart said. “Nobody gets let off the hook. We’re all responsible.”

“It needs to be locally operating and owned, but coordinated in a central location,” Rinehart said.

Higbee said the University also should be conscious and accepting of nontraditional learners.

“Some of our greatest successes may not be students who graduated in four years with 13 credits per semester,” Higbee said. “Success is spelled differently for different students.”

Although the forum was advertised multiple times, including in, the Daily, undergraduates didn’t attend Wednesday’s forum or the one last week, a result that task force co-chairwoman Robin Wright, associate dean at the College of Biological Sciences, said was frustrating.

She said there could be many reasons for student apathy.

“This is not a good time of year for students,” Wright said. “There also may be a little bit of cynicism because they think their voices won’t matter.”

She said it could also be because the task forces’ recommendations won’t be realized until several years down the road, and students don’t want to spend time on something that won’t affect them.

Nevertheless, she said, the task force tried to get as much student input as possible and to make the students a priority.