The Faculty Advising Program
The goal of the advising program is to help Wesleyan students acquire, by the end of their undergraduate career, a strong foundation in the liberal arts and the skills necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Because Wesleyan has an open curriculum—a curriculum in which only the individual major programs require students to take specific courses—the faculty has adopted General Education Expectations and identified ten Essential Capabilities to provide structure for students. Both are described below. Students and their advisors need to be familiar with the Expectations and the Capabilities, as well as the academic regulations and graduation requirements, for the advising program to achieve its greatest effectiveness.
- Pre-Major Advising
The objective of the pre-major advising program is to help first-year students and sophomores think seriously about their educational objectives in the context of the liberal arts education offered at Wesleyan. Faculty members play a central role in this process as both advisors and teachers, supported by the class deans, the academic deans, peer advisors, and the offices that make up the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN). Successful advising will draw on these resources by making students aware of them and encouraging students to use them effectively.
Together with their faculty advisors, students should develop a challenging and coherent educational plan for the first two years, one that achieves curricular breadth while preparing for the depth that the major will bring in the last two years. While exposure to a cross-section of the curriculum should be a goal for all four years, it is especially important during the first two years, because it allows students to make knowledgeable decisions when they choose majors.
- Assignment of Pre-Major Advisors
Because academic advising is an extension of teaching, all Wesleyan faculty members engage in pre-major advising as well as in advising of majors. The Office for Academic Affairs matches advisors and advisees, taking into account scheduled sabbaticals and leaves. The vice president for academic affairs will excuse a faculty member from pre-major advising only in exceptional circumstances.
To provide continuity in the advising relationship, each faculty member typically advises the same group of students for their first year and a half, until they declare majors. There are some exceptions to this practice: students who sign up for the three-year majors offered by the College of Letters and the College of Social Studies begin to work with their major advisor in the spring of their first year as may those who choose the three-year option; students who wish to change advisors may do so; and students who are reassigned when their advisors go on sabbatical or leave during the second year of the advising cycle.
Whenever possible, first-year students are assigned to faculty members teaching first-year seminars (FYS or FYI) or introductory (gateway) courses in which the students have enrolled during the summer. If a match cannot be made on this basis, students are assigned to faculty members who share their interest in particular fields of study or disciplinary areas.
- Back-up Advisors
Faculty members may assign colleagues to serve as their back-up advisors if they are going to be unavailable during any phase of advising or course registration. Through the e-portfolio, the back-up can be activated and deactivated. Any faculty advisor who plans to activate the back-up function must inform the colleague in question and make sure that person will be available. The students also should be alerted to the change.
- Advising: A Two-Way Relationship
In 2005–06, Wesleyan’s Educational Policy Committee (EPC) adopted a statement on pre-major advising and a chart showing advisee/advisor expectations. Both documents provide useful guidance for both students and advisors as they enter into and cultivate the advising relationship.
“Engaged and knowledgeable pre-major advising is critical to a student’s academic success. Pre-major advising should take the form of a continuing dialogue between student and advisor, not merely periodic sessions in which the student’s course selections are approved. The meetings during New Student Orientation often set the tone for all future encounters between advisor and student. The topics broached during these meetings should include, but not be limited to, the student’s academic goals, the desirability of study abroad, opportunities for community involvement, and ideas about possible careers. The advisor should try to discover the student’s cocurricular interests and identified or perceived strengths or weaknesses to help guide the student’s choice of courses. The advisor should encourage the advisee to take risks by enrolling in courses that introduce the student to unfamiliar material and modes of inquiry. The advisor should initiate a thoughtful discussion of the content of, and rationale for, the General Education Expectations.
“In order for these discussions to be most productive, it is incumbent upon the student to come to these meetings well acquainted with the course offerings and the academic regulations. The student also should be ready to discuss with the advisor specific objectives to be achieved, such as building on existing interests, developing new skills, remedying weaknesses, and laying the groundwork for long-term goals. The advisor should help the student realize that no advisor will have the answers to all questions about the curriculum, major requirements, or pre-professional qualifications, and should be prepared to refer the student to other sources of information.
“Through advising, each student collaborates with the advisor in shaping an academic program. Advising is a dialogue about interests and goals in which the faculty member plays the role of a supportive critic.”
SETTING UP MEETINGS
- Schedule meetings in advance
- Avoid timing crises
- Contact advisees to schedule meetings
- Be reasonably accessible at key times
PREPARING FOR MEETINGS
- Have a plan
- Formulate goals
- Study the curriculum
- Work out alternative course schedules
- Identify specific questions for advisor
- Be familiar with the basic nuts and bolts of course registration process
- Be familiar with student’s academic background and previous coursework
- Know where to find detailed regulations
- Be familiar with the basic nuts and bolts of course registration process
THE ADVISING MEETING
- Discuss course choices and the reasons for them in the context of long-range goals
- Be receptive to questions and suggestions
- Share concerns that may affect success in the upcoming semester
- Ask for any needed referrals
- Discuss any academic regulations that seem confusing
- Arrange additional meetings during the semester
- Provide context for academic planning
- Balance disciplines and capabilities
- Encourage curricular exploration
- Discuss likely majors/concentrations
- Discuss decisions that will affect the student’s program of study and larger goals
- Alert student to potential problems (course credits, General Education fulfillment, academic standing, oversubscription)
- Be prepared to refer student to other sources of information, mentoring, and counseling
- Informal Interaction Between Advisors and Advisees
To encourage congenial interaction between pre-major advisors and their advisees as a group, the vice president for student affairs (VPSA) has a small budget to reimburse advisors for the expense of hosting informal gatherings. Advisors should get in touch with the office of the VPSA (x2772) to learn how much funding is available.
- The Role of the Major Advisor
A primary objective of major advising is to guide students’ choices as they explore a subject in depth. Major advisors are responsible for making sure that juniors and seniors fulfill the requirements for their majors and plan ahead for required or optional capstone experiences while also completing the University’s graduation requirements. Advisors also should help their advisees think about and prepare for life after Wesleyan. Such planning includes applying for postgraduate grants and fellowships, admission to graduate or professional school, and employment.
- Assignment of Major Advisors
Most students begin to work with their major advisors during preregistration in the spring of the sophomore year. Some departments assign advisors, while others encourage new majors to approach faculty members themselves. Department chairs have information in their e-portfolios showing the number of advisees each member of the department already has. They should use this information to distribute advising duties as equitably as possible.