New advising program moving along path to success

Lisa Cacciatore

Many upperclasssmen said they haven’t taken advantage of changes to the academic advising system implemented last fall in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Speech.

“I don’t think I even have an adviser,” Speech junior Jess Martin said. “They told us to ask for one, and I never did.”

The University Academic Advising Center assists undergraduates from all six schools at Northwestern. Last year 73 percent of students who sought advising were freshmen and sophomores however, said Greg Cera, assistant director of the University Academic Advising Center.

Weinberg launched the first stage of an advising initiative that will continue for three years and then be re-evaluated, according to Keith Topper, coordinator of college advisers for the class of 2004.

The changes affect mostly freshman and sophomores. The new program consists of four full-time advisers, each of whom works with about 250 sophomores.

“We are hoping that the much larger advising staff will enable advisers to take an active role in getting to know their advisees and in meeting with them on a regular basis,” Topper said. “This in turn should enable students to reflect on and pursue their education in a much more thoughtful and systematic way.”

Previously, three part-time Weinberg advisers were responsible for about 4,000 students. With a staff this size, it was impossible to give students the attention they needed, Topper said.

The School of Speech has similar goals of improving advising for its students. The school added three part-time advisers this fall.

The new advising programs emerged out of student feedback indicating students wanted advising that helps make the process more user-friendly, said Tamara Kagel, who serves on the Undergraduate Budget Priorities Committee, which proposed the Speech program.

With ASG elections today, Kagel and Mike Fong, candidates for academic vice president, said they want to supplement the new advising system with better publicity of NU’s resources and peer mentors.

“One of my main goals is to publicize services that are already available,” said Kagel, a Speech sophomore.”We need to concentrate on letting students know what resources are available to them.”

Fong agrees that existing advising programs are helpful and hopes to enhance existing programs with peer advisers.

“We are going to supplement the present academic advising programs, not replace them,” said Fong, a Weinberg sophomore.

But while candidates are proposing new ways to improve academic advising, most upperclassmen have yet to use the programs established Fall Quarter.

“I haven’t met with my adviser since I declared my major over a year ago,” Weinberg junior Kelly Murphy said.

Many freshmen and sophomores who have used the program said advising has helped to point them in the right direction.

“My adviser has had some good suggestions of programs and great advice pertaining to my major,” Weinberg sophomore Kristen Jenkins said. “I use her as a sounding board to throw my ideas off of.”

Speech sophomore Bret Schafer, who recently met with his academic adviser, said: “I have found my adviser very helpful. She lets me know what I need to do for major requirements and distributions. I just met with her for my degree progress.”

Advisers agree that the new program has already made a difference.

“I think the new advising system has been very successful,” said Weinberg adviser and history Prof. Fariba Zarinebaf-Shahr. “We have managed to reach out to almost three-quarters of our sophomores in the last six months. Some students now seek advice quite regularly and visit our office at least a couple of times every quarter.”

As for upperclassmen, students and advisers agreed that advising is available for those who actively seek it out.

“I feel that the reason we have had a successful relationship is that we both have been organized,” Jenkins said. “It’s a two-way relationship, and you only get what you put in.”