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Good advising more than assigning a RUN number, say experienced advisers

November 4, 2003


You know the scenario. It's three days before classes start, and a stream of students rush into your office, thrust slips of paper under your nose and gasp, "I need a RUN number."

For some studentssome highly organized, well informed and extremely unusual studentsthis "no-advice" advising may be all that's needed.
November 4, 2003


You know the scenario. It's three days before classes start, and a stream of students rush into your office, thrust slips of paper under your nose and gasp, "I need a RUN number."

For some studentssome highly organized, well informed and extremely unusual studentsthis "no-advice" advising may be all that's needed.

But advising can be so much more, say experienced advisers. "It's a relationship-building opportunity," says Dr. Jean Lewis, a psychology professor and trained adviser. “It's the opportunity to develop a relationship with an authority figure that may last four or five yearsor even longer."

Advising also can help students clarify their goals, she says. "Advising can lead to a discussion about what they want to do. It gives us a chance to ask, 'Where do you see yourself four years from now?'"

Advising is, of course, most critical for freshmen. "They usually don't have any idea what courses to take," says Dr. David Kanervo, professor of political science and longtime adviser. "They may not understand the core or its purpose. They don't know which major and minor courses to take. They're very much lost."

Advising is no less important for juniors and seniors, but it has a different focus. "By the time students reach this level, the more important advising revolves around filling holes in their academic career," Kanervo says, "making sure they meet the requirements for graduation."

Both Kanervo and Lewis believe familiarity with particular computer systems is essential for advising. "The 681 screen has information on what the student has taken, and his or her major, minor and electives," Lewis says. "It also has an overview and advising display and shows the student's college, major, status, hours, GPA, placement tests completed, current schedule, previous coursework and transfer work.

"It's a wonderful summary."

Kanervo also turns to the University's databases to prepare for advising sessions. He uses the SIS (Student Information System) to bring up general information and the Web for faculty to bring up the student's graduation audit, transfer courses and transcripts.

Different faculty may access student information differently, Lewis says. "But it's essential to be knowledgeable in accessing the information."

At some point in their academic careers, students' questions evolve from "What courses do I need to take?" to "What shall I do with the rest of my life?" Advising can help them stride more confidently toward a particular career goal.

"I ask them what they enjoy doing," Kanervo says. "I try to find a link between their hobbies, special interests and talents and their career possibilities."

Though the purpose of advising sessions is to keep students on track academically, Kanervo says he doesn't always restrict his advising to academic matters. "I try to be open to discussing personal problems a student may be having.

"I'm not trained as a counselor, but I can make suggestions or steer them toward resources that might be helpful."

Of course, good advising is a two-way street. It requires prepared and involved students as well as knowledgeable, caring faculty. "What students don't understand is that many of those who would be happy to get their RUN number from secretaries and not be advised are the same students who within a couple of semesters of graduation realize they don't have the courses for graduation.

And they say, "I didn't get advised!"

It seems the first advice students should get is "Never underestimate the importance of advisement."
—Debbie Denton