WCU is taking steps to improve advising for everyone on campus, both students and advisors. The Academic Task Force, formed in October 2014, has been set up to figure out what the obstacles to good advising are and then to suggest ways of reducing those obstacles.
The Task Force is made up of students, faculty, and staff from across the institution and is being led by Dr. Cheryl Wanko from the Department of English. One of the student members, Emily Rodriguez (Nutrition major), states, “being able to express my feelings and thoughts about advising has really allowed my views and hopefully the views of other students like me to be heard.”
The first job the Task Force was charged with was to define “good advising,” because, as Dr. Eleanor Shevlin of the English Department believes, “good advising matters!” We all know that it’s a way for students to learn the right classes to take in the next semester, but the Task Force sees advising as much more comprehensive than this – as a crucial part of the educational program. The Task Force eventually settled on this general statement:[pullquote align=”center”]Academic advising is an educational partnership between a faculty member and a student whose goal is the student’s academic, personal, and professional success.[/pullquote] Advisors and advisees collaborate to help students achieve their aims. Advisors explain policies, identify resources, and give advice; however, students are ultimately responsible for making the decisions that will keep them on track. The advising relationship thus mirrors other teaching relationships at West Chester University.
Dr. Jackie Hodes of Counselor Education Department, a member of the Task Force, echoes this teaching goal of advising: “”The advising role helps me to build an individual teaching relationship with students outside of the classroom.”
The Task Force knew that everyone would want more detail, so it added this list of attributes:
At WCU, advisors and advisees:
- treat each other with respect
- understand their advising duties
- work to clarify students’ professional and life goals
- contribute to realistic academic and career plans
- educate themselves about institutional policies, procedures, and opportunities
- contribute to making good class choices
- address challenges through knowledge and use of campus resources
- use available technological tools
The emphasis on mutuality is key: students know that they need accurate and timely information from advisors to be successful, but advisors can’t do their job well without student preparedness.
Each one of these list items links to a number of ways in which each item is defined for both students and faculty. As Dr. Frank Fry of Kinesiology and member of the Task Force states, “Advising is a joint effort on the part of a student and their faculty advisor. Students hopefully gain insight from the faculty advisor to assist in their decisions on the way to graduation.”
In this list, for example, “respect” is defined as courteous and civil communication, making sure that both parties make themselves available, and both parties returning emails or calls within two working days. Under “make good class choices,” students are requested to devise an initial plan for their course schedule to bring to their advising meetings, and advisors should assist students in accurately choosing courses that satisfy academic requirements to help them meet their career goals, as well as help students find options if classes are not available. The list includes a lot of helpful detail.
But this definition of “good advising” won’t help if no one knows it! So another Task Force project is to create an advising web page that will include this definition, along with a lot of other content related to advising, such as the “Virtual Advisor” Q&As that students and faculty have been receiving in their email – also the work of the Task Force. Members of the Task Force have been visiting faculty groups across campus and have presented the definition to the SGA.
They also invite you to a Student Open Forum on Advising on Tuesday, April 7, from 3:15-4:15 in Sykes 115. You can suggest changes to our advising system and ask questions. Emily Rodriguez urges students to attend because it allows students to “get their voices heard”!
The Task Force is now asking what gets in the way of WCU providing good advising. They have looked at data, such as student survey data from the past few years. They are also taking a faculty survey, to see may be preventing faculty from participating fully in the advising relationship, and they are examining advising workloads across departments to see whether work is distributed in the best way. Finally, they will be studying ways other universities structure advising services across the whole institution. Perhaps there are better ideas out there that WCU can adopt.
The Task Force hopes you will join it in its exciting work related to advising and take part in the Open Forum on April 7th (3:15 in Sykes 115)!
Professor of English