Choosing a major, minor and the classes each semester to fulfill either degree is an integral part of college life. Such decisions determine what degree students earn, when they graduate and how difficult a course load the student will be subjected to.
The process can be difficult, and even though resources are available online and in the course catalog, sometimes more nuanced information is sorely needed to make informed decisions. This is where a good academic adviser comes in, one who is supportive, knows his or her advisees’ interests, and helps guide students through any obscure college policies so that students’ academic paths are successful.
At Mills College, however, this is not a reality for many students. First and foremost, faculty members need more training to do their assigned task of advising more effectively, perhaps through mandatory workshops from the Provost and Academic Records departments. A student and an adviser are not going to make much progress when neither is fully informed about course offerings, deadlines, requirements or transfer credit policies.
Professors are also busy, and the job of advising students often feels like an afterthought for some. Thus, they should be able to opt out of advising, because an adviser who is too busy to take the time to meet individual students needs and to offer advice, shortchanges students out of what should be a meaningful relationship.
Plus, the very process of choosing an adviser is unclear, because there really is no institutionally supported means for selecting one. Incoming students are assigned to an adviser, without any guarantee that the professor is in the students’ field of interest or has any idea how the process of advising should work.
Once students choose their major and minor, they are expected to find an adviser within the department they have selected, completely on their own. Some students may not know their new teachers well enough, or know what their individual areas of expertise are. Implementing a process that ensures students are matched with a compatible adviser would help eliminate students’ uneasiness and would benefit professors as well.
There have been too many horror stories. While students, in the end, are responsible for their own education they also deserve to have advisers who help them during their academic careers at Mills.