Freshmen Enjoy Changes in Advising Leslie Rice Homewood News and Information Every undergraduate should walk away from college with a memory of that one college professor who took an interest, became a mentor or gave good advice. Yet all too often Homewood undergraduates, particularly freshmen, found it was the rare occurrence that they had such a professor as their faculty adviser. In fact, last year a Student Council survey on faculty advisers distributed among freshmen found that as a whole they rated miserably. Things are different this year. After a year of discussion and planning, some major changes in undergraduate academic advising have gone into effect, most having to do with freshmen. By asking freshmen to declare their majors as they enter college, Hopkins has bucked a national trend for years. For the first time this year, students are asked to wait until the beginning of sophomore year to declare majors. As a result, students will be advised by faculty from a variety of departments during that first year of college. Next year, after they've declared their major, they will be given a new adviser who teaches in the department in which they are majoring. "It's an attempt to change the mental set that students have to be totally focused on one academic track the minute they arrive here," said Martha Roseman, dean of academic advising. "We hope this will have a broadening effect and introduce students to subjects and courses they may not have noticed before." The exception with the new policy is students enrolled in the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering, because for those students not getting started on some of the requirements the first year could be a handicap, added Roseman. Over the summer, freshman advisers have attended workshops to learn about all the different department requirements for majors, said Suzanne Ashley, chairwoman of the Student Council's Academic Committee and a member of the Curriculum Committee, which is made up of students and faculty and is responsible for the changes. "We conducted a survey last year with the freshmen and found that a vast number of faculty advisers seemed uninterested or didn't have correct information about the requirements for their majors," she said. "A lot of the students said they stopped bothering and would just go straight to the Office of Academic Advising if they had a question." After a call went out for volunteers to advise freshmen, "81 warm, kind, nurturing people" volunteered for the job, said Roseman. Already these faculty members have met with their students as a group and individually, some have invited their freshmen to their houses for dinners, others have stopped by dorm rooms to make sure advisees were settling in all right. The new system is expected to have a broadening effect on the faculty as well. A professor who is an expert in medieval history, for example, will have to learn the different requirements and course load for a student who wants to major in materials science. For the most part, the Office of Academic Advising has tried to group students living in the same residence hall with one adviser. "It's another attempt to connect students with each other; we want to build on that bond they've hopefully already developed by living on the same hall," said English Department chairman Jerome Christensen, who worked on the Curriculum Committee and is a freshman adviser. More changes are expected in the future. The committee is also exploring the idea of implementing courses designed specifically for freshmen that are shared by professors of a variety of disciplines. For example a sociologist, urban engineer and psychology professor might teach a course together on cities. "I think the benefits for the freshmen are going to be tremendous," said Ashley. "I also think that it could go a long way to help lift the general attitude toward faculty advisers for all students."
Go to Gazette Homepage