Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 11, 1995

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

     "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

     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

     "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."

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