Advising is crucial in facilitating retention and graduation of students. All the research and literature point to the central role of advising as part of the academic experience. Every college has its own advising structure (CLA, CM, and CSM have specific advising for certain categories of first-year cohorts, and CNHS uses group advising for its Nursing and Exercise and Health Sciences majors). Some colleges have special advising coordinators who are available to explain the intricacies of general education requirements to departmental faculty.
A student needs advising for the general education curriculum as well as the major. Undeclared majors are typically advised by the University Advising Center. Declared majors receive their advising within departments; these advising sessions, which should take place minimally once every semester during the pre-registration period, should ideally be holistic and focus on the student’s overall academic progress (in the major as well as in the general education curriculum).
The requirements of the general education curriculum can seem daunting to faculty; therefore, it is important that you provide them with the necessary training in the university’s general education requirements for your college. As department chair, you can help your faculty develop a culture of advising. Explain the centrality of advising to student retention and graduation rates, and impress upon your faculty that improving these rates is a key focus of the university’s strategic plan. Advising is as critical a part of a faculty member’s teaching responsibility as classroom teaching. Our students in particular, many of whom are the first in their families to be going to college, need guidance and support as they make their way through college. They need encouragement, a clear explanation of the requirements, and help in navigating their way through them. An advising session is an important opportunity to have a close and meaningful academic conversation with students about their intellectual goals, their desired professional aspiration, and their experience in their courses.
If your college has an advising director, please invite that individual to a department meeting each semester, if possible, to help initiate new faculty into the particularities of general education requirements and refresh continuing faculty members’ memories of these requirements. Make sure that your faculty understands the requirements of the major. Some departments identify one faculty member as the “go to” person for questions related to the major; though every faculty member in the department should receive adequate training about the requirements of the major, this designated individual can serve an important function in answering particularly complex questions.
You can set the departmental tone about advising – it should not be viewed as a chore or an ordeal; rather, it is a tremendous opportunity each semester for faculty members to connect with students and to mentor them in the achievement of their “dreams.”