University of Wisconsin students shared their experiences and opinions on the current system of undergraduate advising at an open forum Wednesday afternoon in Bascom Hall.
UW recently named Wren Singer, the previous director of the Center for the First-Year Experience, as the director of undergraduate advising – a new position funded by the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates.
Singer said the goal of this new position is to find ways to provide better training and technology to the advisors at UW. She added the reason for the forum was to obtain student ideas and experiences to help accomplish those goals.
“We need to get a better understanding of what students are and are not happy with when it comes to advising,” Singer said.
The students at the forum shared their personal advising experiences. One student said her advisor was not able to give her information on which classes to register for due to her multiple majors, adding she almost had to take an extra year of classes because of it.
Singer addressed this as a problem that needs to be fixed by broadening the range of knowledge advisors have on multiple schools and majors at UW.
“This idea about interdisciplinary advising and advisors not being able to talk about things outside their expertise is presenting a problem as well,” Singer said. “Advisors have a lot to learn and are under pressure to get it right and are thus hesitating to learn more, but they probably need to.”
Marissa Mullins, a senior in the School of Nursing, said she attended the forum because she and some of her friends had experienced some frustration with the lack of consistency and communication in the current advising system.
Mullins added the size of UW makes it difficult for advisors and students to form the relationship necessary for good advising.
“It’s hard in a school this large to find and stay with someone you connect with,” Mullins said. “In my experience I once found an advisor really helpful but I wasn’t able to stay with them. You just end up getting passed along [to a new advisor].”
Singer agreed with the issue of having too many students for too few advisors. She added when some advisors have lots of students, they find it difficult to do a good job and focus on each of their students.
“The interpersonal relationship aspect of it is where the most improvement could be gained,” Singer stated.
Singer also pointed out the 24 newly-hired advisors and new technology programs, designed to help advisors keep track of their students and their advising histories, will help decrease the number of students each advisor has.
Singer added this decrease in number of students per advisor will allow for more personal relationships between students and advisors to form, making the whole advising process easier for both parties.
“If you have a good relationship with someone, you will have a good feeling after the encounter with them, even if it wasn’t as productive as you wish it could have been,” Singer said.