The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Advisers Can Provide Options to Students

Students may not always take advantage of the guidance offered in the offices of academic advisers?though opinions vary across campus.

“As associate dean, I see students who need to withdraw or need a late add or who have missed usual deadlines and for some reason want my signature,” said Elizabeth Tucker Gurney, associate dean of the College of Science. “So I see the ones with problems.”

About half the students she sees are not official majors, while many others have not yet seen an adviser who could have helped them circumvent the problem in the first place.

A lot depends on a student’s personality, she said. Some prefer to plan using only the Web or print version of the catalogue.

But in general, students have much to gain by visiting an academic adviser?but few do, she said.

Not only are they more likely to suffer from requirement problems, but students who go it alone also miss out on valuable advice for choosing a major and heading toward a career, Gurney said.

Psychology majors can get through the program without making regular visits to the advising office, according to Jacob Lonsdale, the department’s director of undergraduate academic advising.

“The biggest thing they miss out on is using the office for other resources that it has available,” he said. Students could learn about ways to get involved, apply their degree toward potential careers, graduate school and other things.

“At a large state university, with so many students and so few advisers, we’re not really able to enforce students coming in and meeting with advisers,” said Hugh Brown, associate dean of university college.

“The biggest problem is students not realizing what their options are when they are having problems in a class,” Brown said.

But the services available and student needs vary widely between departments.

“Some departments are very focused on advising because of the nature of field,” said John Francis, associate vice president for academic affairs and undergraduate studies.

For instance, dance or engineering curriculums come with clear expectations of what a student will take each semester.

“The role of the adviser is clearly woven into the fabric of the education,” Francis said, noting that other departments offer more freedom?which means students may need more guidance.

Sherlyn Marks, political science undergraduate adviser, said in her 11 years at the U, she has seen the number of students who arrive for academic advising increase greatly since the conversion to semesters.

The political science department averages about 500 majors, she said.

In general, there are few problems?the vast majority of students have no last minute problems while preparing for graduation and students can usually get the classes they need.

The major is very straight forward, she said.

“There are some students who need more nurturing along the way, whereas other students can just look at requirements,” Marks said.

Advising is linked with student retention?a problem at the U, where about half of each year’s freshman class does not return, according to Brown.

Some students depart temporarily for religious missions, skewing this statistic, he said.

Three years ago, the U began tying priority registration for freshman with visits to an adviser. After meeting with an adviser, freshmen have first access to 1000 and 2000 level classes.

Before this program began only about 20 percent of freshman visited advisers. This year, Brown hopes that number will reach 80 percent.

Follow-up research has also shown higher GPAs and retention rates among those who have taken advantage of the program.

Aaron Weiss, a senior in biology, visits with Fred Montague, the biology department’s coordinator of academic advising, every four or five months.

“I was in there today, the list of appointments was huge,” he said. “I think students go into an adviser a year or two after they start and find out they should have done this or they should have done that and that makes it difficult further down the line.”

He often uses the student evaluations in the office to help him select courses.

The biology program has more than 800 majors. In general, students are “pretty conscientious,” according to Montague.

“The ones who grad and meet the requirements are typically ones who have seen me three or four times,” he said.

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