Faculty Weigh Revisions to Advising System

Jack Rockwell

The Faculty Advising Committee is currently in the early stages of reviewing the student advising system, a process that may lead to greater adviser involvement.

The committee is arranging focus groups to determine what kinds of changes the College should consider.

“The General Faculty Advising Committee is developing focus groups to talk with students about academic advising in Arts and Sciences,” Dean of Studies Joyce Babyak wrote in an email to the Review. “We expect to work with Senate when we are ready to set the groups up. What we learn from these focus groups will inform thinking about academic advising going forward.”

College senior Robert Bonfiglio, the only student member of the Faculty Advising Committee, described the current state of operations as a sort of routine check-up.

“Right now, there’s no plan to change the advising system,” Bonfiglio said. “It’s a preliminary movement to create focus groups to check out how the advising system is operating, just because it’s good to check on these things.”

However, to Dean of Arts and Sciences Tim Elgren, the review of the advising system goes handin-hand with a broader review of the curriculum as a whole, as the College attempts to integrate students’ academic and extracurricular experiences.

“We have in mind a broader relationship, a bigger impact, that advising could play in your life as a student and help you to think about how to move beyond your Oberlin experience: in terms of internships, in terms of how you spend your winter, how you spend your summer, using your time here as effectively and courageously as possible and engaging in new ways that you hadn’t imagined,” Elgren said.

Elgren envisions a two-year process: a year of exploration followed by a year of implementation, with a potentially altered advising system ready by fall 2017. The review will draw on student input and look at other colleges’ advising systems. According to Elgren, the key is creating an advising system that transcends the course catalog.

“There will be a lot of what happens now built into it, but it will, I hope, be available to broader conversations than just course selection, and helping students think about the ways in which their development takes place on many fronts.”

This discussion comes on the heels of broader efforts from the Strategic Planning Steering Committee to assess the direction Oberlin should move toward in the coming years.

“Effective holistic advising and support are foundational to a successful connected learning experience tailored to the individual needs and aspirations of students for academic, artistic, personal and professional growth,” according to the Strategic Plan draft published this past spring. The draft also recommends making connections between pre-major and major advising, as well as integrating the advising system with student support services and the Career Center.

However, the Steering Committee will probably not decide the details behind any new advising system, leaving it to the Faculty Advising Committee to decide what any changes might look like and how they would be implemented.

The Faculty Advising Committee is still at the beginning of this process. “Right now what’s happening is brainstorming questions to ask faculty and later on with students, to see how people operate within the advising system,” Bonfiglio said. “It’s to find out if people think there needs to be a change.”

However, some committee members echo Elgren’s desire to have the advising system cover a broader spectrum of students’ lives.

“There have been discussions about the kind of advising we want … a sense of connected and integrated learning,” said Director of the Division of Music Theory and Faculty Advising Committee member Brian Alegant. “How do we take all of the different strands of one’s learning, and how do we tighten them and strengthen them and create a more holistic learning experience?”