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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Peer advising provides valuable campus service

Did your SOAR adviser tell you to take a Swahili class and you now wish you hadn’t listened to them? Do you still have no idea what to major in or even what classes to take?

These are some questions going through thousands of students’ minds on the University of Wisconsin campus. How do you choose a major and career path right away and know what classes to take, including some that you might actually enjoy? The short blurb in the course catalog that describes certain classes doesn’t give much insight into what you’ll really be studying. What about talking with other students in specific departments who have actually taken the classes you are interested in?

Associated Students of Madison members are currently approaching many departments on campus to start peer-advising programs. Often students spend extra semesters fulfilling requirements that they could have taken care of much earlier if they had received adequate advising from the beginning of their college years.

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Peer advisers would be undergraduate students in a particular major that can advise other students in that major or prospective students who are interested in the department. Students receiving peer advising can make more informative academic choices by hearing from real students who have been through a few years of college already. Therefore, ideal peer advisers would be UW juniors or seniors who have had experience in fulfilling the requirements of a certain department. These individuals will help advise freshman and sophomores who are still having trouble making academic decisions. Some areas of advice could include class selection, registration, major requirements and graduate-school information.

There are currently a few peer-to-peer advising services on campus. The School of Education has Ed Peers who assist students by holding regular advising sessions throughout the year.

The Exploration Center through the Cross College Advising Service has Career Peers that advise students by helping them select a career path and/or major.

While these programs are beneficial, they only serve a small percentage of students. By implementing peer-advising programs through specific departments, all students will have more advising opportunities available to them.

Last semester, ASM members created a peer-advising proposal for several UW departments. The ASM Academic Affairs Campaign has asked for at least three peer advisers in each department. These advisers will ideally hold a total of 15-20 walk-in advising hours each week with increased hours in November and April for the busy registration periods. They will be hired and trained by the departments’ undergraduate adviser so they know all the details of the major as well as advising based on their own experiences.

The history department is currently discussing the specifics of its ideal peer-advising program and will ideally begin the process of hiring peer advisers soon.

We have also given proposals to the School of Journalism and the political science department.

Having peer advisers will greatly increase advising availability to students and take pressure off of advisers, who are often very difficult to reach. The budget of the program is very small compared to the potential costs of an additional faculty adviser. This is a very inexpensive way of expanding advising services greatly.

Fitting a peer-advising program into a department’s budget would be very useful when you consider all of the students who will benefit from the services that the peer advisers can provide. Since there are already some peer-to-peer programs on campus that have been very successful, we know that the proposal we have created can create even more help to students in a variety of departments.

Administrators and students need to work together to make programs like this happen.

UW sophomore Janell Wise said, “Administrators and students have never disagreed on the need for better advising. They have the same goals but need a facilitator between them to start the process of making improvements.”

The Academic Affairs Campaign hopes to help encourage the two groups to work together toward the same purpose and eventually make changes that improve the university’s services.

The Academic Affairs Campaign will continue to press academic departments to adopt our peer-advising model. In addition, we seek the support of students on campus who want better advising services. We encourage students who want peer advising to contact us and work with us on presenting the peer-advising proposal to their department.

Stephanie Kern ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science. She is the coordinator of ASM’s Academic Affairs Campaign.

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