MSA takes on advising concerns

MSA plans to present adviser issues to the Board of Regents.

Anne Millerbernd

University of Minnesota administrators say academic advising is the best it’s been in years. But some students disagree, saying they rarely see their adviser.

In response to student concerns about advising, the Minnesota Student Association plans to present issues regarding adviser turnover and accessibility at its December meeting with the Board of Regents.

MSA doesn’t have authority to change University policy for issues like advising, but two of its members serve as group representatives to the regents.

MSA student representative to the regents Joelle Stangler said she’s unsure if the board will change any policies in response to MSA’s presentation but said making regents aware of student issues has affected some policies in the past.

MSA will follow up with the regents during their spring meeting to see if they take any action on advising policy, she said.

Stangler said an adviser should be a source of comfort for their students, as well as an academic guide.

“People are having a lot of different advisers in their career,” she said. “[Students] will have had three or four advisers from their freshman year until graduation.”

Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, said the advising profession tends to have a lot of turnover because it’s often a stepping-stone to further a career.

The University implemented the APLUS system about three years ago to help students move more easily between different advisers, he said.

The program keeps track of student progress and includes a section for notes. McMaster said this helps a new adviser work more authoritatively because they can see students’ full advising and academic histories.

Stangler, who also works in an advising office, said in some cases students will be assigned a temporary adviser between advisers, which can contribute to the feeling of being “shuffled around.”

Les Opatz, assistant director of advising in the College of Liberal Arts, said advising offices benefit from having employees who’ve held the same position for many years because they have an understanding of how different departments and majors have changed over time.

Because University departments are constantly changing, Opatz said, this knowledge is beneficial for providing students with quality guidance.

MSA also plans to tell regents about student issues with limited access to advisers.

Stangler said the amount of time a student is provided when meeting with his or her adviser sometimes isn’t enough, which can leave students unclear on how to navigate the University.

“I think it compounds the idea that it’s really big here, that you can get lost here,” she said.

But due to tight budgets and limited resources, the ratio of advisers to students is a source of struggle for many colleges, said Mark Bultmann, director of advising initiatives in the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Bultmann said it’s especially difficult for students to meet with their adviser during registration time. And when there are too many students assigned to an adviser, he said, making an appointment becomes more difficult.

“Students calling to make appointments may find that they have to wait a few days or a week to actually get in to see someone,” he said.

Psychology junior Kaylin Graff said she rarely sees her adviser because she doesn’t feel the need to.

“I’ve heard of people trying to find a different adviser because theirs just didn’t really help them,” she said.

Lexi Steinkraus, an undeclared sophomore, said she thinks students often put off visiting their adviser because they don’t find them useful.

“They’re definitely helpful when it comes to the initial transition [during] freshman year,” Steinkraus said, “but after that, you sort of forget that they exist.”

McMaster said students may stop using their collegiate adviser around junior year and opt to meet with their major adviser instead.

The Office of Undergraduate Education plans to make improvements to advising and career counseling as part of a larger plan that will potentially be in place by this summer, McMaster said.

“I don’t think anything’s broken here at all,” he said, “but it’s a matter of continually improving.”