After three months of soliciting input from faculty, students and staff, the Office of Academic Advising in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and John Bader, who directs the department, have completed an overhaul of its system of undergraduate advising.
The changes were recently approved by the curriculum board and were announced last week to all department heads and faculty.
"This system will foster more meaningful relationships between faculty and students while promoting academic excellence and intellectual exploration," said Bader, assistant dean of Academic Advising.
"We made these changes with the hopes of lightening the bureaucratic burdens of advising while creating opportunities for more relaxed discussion and better guidance," he said. "Hopefully, it will make advising more attractive for faculty who don't participate now and more enjoyable for those who do."
The first major change is that Arts and Sciences freshmen will no longer be assigned a faculty adviser. Instead, the Office of Academic Advising will serve as the new students' primary adviser, helping them to explore Hopkins more fully and to establish good study habits.
At the end of freshman year, based on their intended major, students will be assigned to a faculty adviser who can provide guidance. Current students will stay with the faculty adviser they already have.
Bader said that the goal is for faculty advisers "to have a different sort of conversation with students," one he describes as "more meaningful." In the fall, when students meet with advisers to preregister, the discussion should cover subjects such as personal growth, academic and professional goals, research and travel opportunities, graduate training and possible fellowships. This goes to the strengths of faculty and fills students' need for meaningful guidance.
In addition, each major and minor discipline will have "open advisers." These faculty and perhaps graduate students will be available to meet with any student from any class, including freshmen. This creates a network of advising for students who are changing majors, are undecided or are majoring in one discipline but want to know about another.
The advising calendar will be less concentrated. The traditional "advising week" will be replaced by a longer, "less frantic" calendar, Bader said. Freshmen will meet with academic advisers in November and April, sophomores in November and March, juniors in October and February, and seniors in September and April.
Among the other features of the new advising system:
Signatures will no longer be required on schedules and add/drop forms. Instead, after a preregistration meeting, academic or faculty advisers will sign a registration clearance form giving the student the freedom and responsibility to implement that advice. Students will still need signatures from instructors to add a course after the second week and permission from OAA to take more than 18.5 credits.
Curricular reviews will happen only once a year, in the spring, during which juniors will receive special attention. All students except seniors will bring a transcript and a checklist of already completed requirements to this meeting with their adviser. Curricular reviews for juniors will be rigorous analyses during which their adviser will write a "prescription" of remaining requirements of their majors based on the checklist; they also will visit the respective offices for minors and/or second majors. Juniors then will go to the Office of Academic Advising to get a prescription of university requirements. Seniors will meet with faculty advisers as an exit interview.
Graduation clearance is simplified. Faculty advisers will no longer need to review senior transcripts, as this analysis will have happened the year before. OAA will clear seniors by simply verifying that prescribed requirements have been filled properly. OAA will consult with faculty where appropriate, but this change makes clearance easier and is compatible with future electronic graduation procedures.
"We think the transition for these changes will be pretty simple," Bader said. "As we move into the new system, faculty will continue advising the students they have been assigned, meeting once a semester to clear for preregistration. Next year's seniors, of course, will need the final review in September that juniors will receive [in the future].
"Now we're working on getting the word out about the new system," Bader continued. "Members of our staff will be meeting with each department to talk about the changes and soliciting feedback from faculty and department chairs. So far everyone has been very supportive."