Advising pilot program sees positive response
Advising 360, a pilot program for 100 students in the Choates residential cluster, has been met with generally positive reviews from students and advisors, but some noted its overlap with the College's current advising program. Advising 360 consolidates current programs and introduces a six-term advising system and trained academic undergraduate advisors.
Some students and advisors said they appreciate the opportunity to form long-term relationships through the program. While students not involved in the pilot program have assigned first-year advisors, they do not have official advisors prior to declaring a major during their sophomore year.
Psychology professor John Pfister, who advises Advising 360 students, said his advising group's first meeting was more productive than those in his 10 previous years as a regular advisor.
"Getting to know one single advisor and getting to know them for the long haul has been great," he said. "That's what I think we were hoping for."
Some students said they feel that Advising 360 has improved their adjustment to life at the College.
Participant Yvette Garcia '16 said she attributes her positive experience with the program to a supportive faculty advisor. She was initially apprehensive about the program, worrying that Advising 360 would require many meetings with numerous advisors. However, the optional nature of these resources has proven helpful, she said.
"It's been a support that is there if you want it," she said.
Pfister said that having 10 students to advise, a number larger than a typical advising group, is challenging.
"I wish I had a smaller clientele, so I could say hi' to them when walking around campus and ask them to have a cup of tea," he said.
Some participating students said there are few differences between Advising 360 and the established advising program.
"So far, I haven't really noticed the fact that I'm in Advising 360, but that is probably due more to me not taking advantage of opportunities than anything else," Robert Leverett '16 said.
Academic UGAs on participating floors received two days of intensive training prior to first-year Orientation and are required to meet with their residents individually each term.
"I didn't find that meeting to be particularly helpful, but I think the big difference is supposed to be sophomore year," Jessica Avitabile '16.
Students not involved in the Advising 360 program said they felt having academic UGAs would not significantly impact their first-year experiences.
"My UGA would help me regardless of whether he was trained or not, so I don't think it really makes a big difference being in Advising 360," Robert Muttilainen '16 said. "If he couldn't answer my questions, he would direct me to someone who could."
Choates Community Director and Advising 360 UGA trainer Daniel Smith said that the pilot program's more holistic approach can better help students navigate academics.
"We are not offering any more or less services to these students than to other current students, we are just offering them in a different way," Smith said.
First-year students' mindsets can lessen the impact of advising programs, according to academic UGA Jacob Hickson '13.
"It's hard to separate the effect of the program from the fact that first-years are really busy and potentially disinterested in receiving help from anyone since this is the age of independence and the mind of the first-year is often overly ambitious to be self-made," he said.
The program is likely to evolve over time to better meet student needs, according to Hickson.
"It would be very silly to expect the initial outset of a pilot to be run perfectly the first time and quite exclusive of growth and progress to prevent any chance for improvement," he said.