Listening sessions aspire to improve international student advising experience

MSA and the Office of Undergraduate Education hosted three listening sessions to solicit feedback on students’ experiences with advising.

Gwiwon Jason Nam

A Minnesota Student Association task force organized listening sessions alongside University of Minnesota administrators in hopes of improving students’ experiences with their advisers.

MSA’s Non-Citizen Immigrant Task Force and the Office of Undergraduate Education co-hosted three listening sessions last week for students to provide feedback regarding their advising experience on campus. Each session, one on each Twin Cities campus, emphasized international student concerns and gave them space to comment on their advising experiences.

“We received feedback that there is something to improve in academic advising,” said Oliver Zheng, MSA’s NITF chair. “As a task force, our goal is to improve non-citizen and immigrant students’ … experience.”

MSA’s annual campus-wide survey from last semester solicited feedback from international students regarding their advising experience, which helped prompt the listening session, Zheng said.

“I attended these sessions along with advising leaders on campus to hear directly from students: what is working well with advising, areas we can improve and general feedback about their advising experience,” said LeeAnn Melin, OUE’s associate vice provost for student success. Melin provides central coordination for academic advising in partnership with the various colleges on campus, she said.

João Pedro Esteves Castro, an MSA member with NITF, said the recent listening sessions provided a variety of new issues to discuss. 

He saw differences and similarities between how advising is done throughout the University, “and that will allow us to have a better idea of what specific areas to tackle in each college and also in the overall picture,” he said.

During the sessions, some international students asked if they were able to change advisers without hurting the relationship, saying the process is not well-advertised. Other student questions revolved around adviser workloads, how they are matched with students and how to best utilize an advising session.

When students discussed how hectic orientation advising was, advisers asked how they could make the process easier.

The organizers hope to better understand and serve the needs of international students on campus. NITF gathered feedback from the listening sessions and are discussing the results before presenting their findings to OUE.

“Hopefully, after we compile and share our findings, we will be able to come up with short- and long-term steps to improve everyone’s advising experiences and also maintain this form of feedback more frequently,” Esteves Castro said.

Amanda Tyler, an MSA member with NITF and a domestic student, led the East Bank session and said the conversations taught her a lot about the international student process.

“Personally, I hope this year’s sessions spur the beginning of an easier way to give general feedback to the adviser community, as the sessions may seem unnecessary to conduct every year,” Tyler said.

The most recent academic advising sessions were in 2015, Melin said. MSA played an important role in that task force and helped to facilitate a campus-wide student discussions to inform the work. 

“Since then, the University has made some great investments in advising,” Melin said. “But it was time to revisit the dialogue with students to hear about their current experiences.”