Best Practices in Advising
ACADEMIC ADVISING IN THE RUSS
COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND
Submitted by Ken Sampson,
Associate Dean of Academics
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to academic advising in the Russ College.
What special advising challenges does the Russ College have?
In comparison to students in other colleges, students in the Russ College probably face the most intricate curriculum at Ohio University. Almost every required course has one or more prerequisites and is itself a prerequisite for another course or courses. Many required courses are offered only one time per year and only in a single section. Free elective courses are almost non-existent. In order to graduate with the university-minimum 192 credit hours, students must carefully select Tier II courses from categories that aren’t automatically satisfied by required courses. In order to graduate in four years, each student must follow a detailed, quarter-by-quarter, plan of study that extends for the entire four years.
Most programs in the college publish standard plans of study in the catalogue; but a variety of circumstances force students to develop, in consultation with their advisor, a customized plan. The most common reasons for departing from the standard plan include having to start in a mathematics course below 263A, taking time away from study to complete a co-operative education work experience, and needing to retake a course when a low grade is earned.
The Russ College relies entirely on the college faculty to provide academic advising. In most departments all faculty members share the advising load and a single faculty member advises each student throughout her or his time at Ohio. The college maintains a policy that all students should have an individual meeting with an advisor each quarter. This policy is enforced by eliminating other opportunities to obtain the RAC. Students have to see an advisor to get their RAC.
Who advises students in the Russ College?
In the vast majority of cases, our one-student, one-advisor, once-a-quarter policy provides great value for our students. Faculty in each department are in the best possible position to know the intricacies of the curriculum, understand how performance in a particular course correlates with performance in another course, and know how curricular and extra-curricular experiences relate to life after graduation. With an average load of about twenty advisees per faculty member, faculty get to know their advisees well and can translate that personal relationship into effective advising.
There are some important exceptions to the general rule described in the preceding paragraph. They start from the fact that faculty members have varying levels of ability and interest in advising. Typically, a faculty member’s only reward for good advising is a “thank you” from their advisees. Since most of our courses are populated with juniors and seniors, most faculty members have limited experience interacting with freshman students, the ones that need advising the most. The combined effect of these factors is that, on occasion, a freshman in need of some TLC meets up with a curmudgeon who is too busy to see or care.
What aspirations does the Russ College have?
The Russ College faculty and administration continues to strive towards providing quality advising to all students. In this regard, two initiatives are currently underway. The first initiative is increased assessment of advising effectiveness. The college has just developed and tested an online advisor evaluation survey that gives students a chance to provide anonymous feedback concerning their advisor’s performance.
The second initiative is centered on enhanced communication regarding academic advising. Towards that end, we have developed guiding principles for academic advising. I’ll close with them.
1) In addition to helping students select courses, advisors will discuss professional objectives, extra-curricular opportunities on and off campus, and personal issues that impact student success. Advisors will actively initiate these discussions on a regular basis.
2) Students will meet with an advisor to receive their RAC each quarter.
3) Advising sessions will produce a specific set of course recommendations each quarter. When a Tier II or technical elective course is recommended, the proper category or categories will be specified. Advisors will keep a copy of these recommendations.
4) Advisors of students with declared majors will maintain a quarter-by-quarter curriculum plan for each student and give them an updated copy of the plan each quarter.
5) Advisors will know about support services such as SI, learning communities, the Academic Advancement Center, and the Office of Institutional Equity. Advisors will refer students to these services when appropriate.
6) Advisors will understand how deficiency points are calculated, how replacing a grade affects deficiency points, and when a student should consider retaking a course even though the minimum acceptable grade has been achieved.
7) Advisors will provide additional advising services for students in academic difficulty. When notified that a student is having difficulty, advisors will intercede with the student in order to adjust the course schedule as needed, recommend support resources, and identify deficient study habits.
8) Advisors will be flexible when scheduling advising sessions and accommodating in their interactions with advisees. The least-mature students are the most in need of advising.