In the 1996 UIS Student Advising Handbook for Faculty and Staff the provost identified several characteristics that make advising central to this campus, including the need to coordinate undergraduates’ lower- and upper-division coursework, the mix of traditional and non-traditional students at UIS, and the heterogeneous nature of their preparation upon admission here.
Advising Students upon Entry to UIS
Before being admitted to UIS, students receive advising assistance in several ways. Initial contact with campus personnel for many students is with an admissions counselor, who helps prospective students:
- make informed choices concerning their majors;
- select their initial courses; and
- develop an understanding of campus admissions procedures.
Faculty also can provide the initial advising contact. This primarily occurs when the incoming student is already clear about which major to pursue.
After the prospective student applies for admission and the campus receives his or her transcripts from other institutions, Admissions evaluates the application and academic record to ensure that general education requirements for the campus have been met. The screening also identifies upper-division course credit the student might be eligible to count at UIS through petition and entails an analysis of prerequisite requirements of the student’s chosen or preferred major (if one has been specified). The student and the chair, convener, or director of the designated academic department or program are notified of this evaluation.
Selection of Initial Faculty Advisers
Academic advising is provided by departments and programs to both their declared majors and minors. An initial adviser can be assigned to a student in several ways. Though some departments and programs have restrictions on adviser selection, the initial selection generally occurs in one of the following ways:
- the student identifies a specific adviser on the application;
- the student identifies a specific adviser on the registration form;
- the department or program assigns an adviser when it is notified of the student’s admittance to the program; or
- the student asks a specific faculty member and, upon agreement, completes and submits a Declaration of Major/Minor and Selection/Change of Faculty Adviser form (for undergraduates) or a Request for Change of Graduate Degree Program and/or Academic Adviser form (for graduate students).
After the initial adviser assignment is made, the department or program chair, convener, or director notifies both the faculty adviser and the Office of Admissions and Records, who then notifies the student of the assignment and forwards a copy of the student’s academic records to the designated adviser. While student advising can occur outside the department or program especially early in the admission/entry process most occurs within this unit.
Sometimes students are not assigned an initial faculty adviser during the admission process either at the campus or department/program level. To help identify these individuals, the registrar sends a list of all student majors who have not yet been assigned an adviser to the chair, convener, or director. This list is sent at the end of the add/drop period during the student’s initial semester of course enrollment. The chair, or other designated faculty member, is then responsible for making the initial advising assignment. Once the assignment is made, the chair (or designee) notifies the Office of Admissions and Records of the assignment(s). Students may change advisers at any time by completing a Selection/Change of Adviser form or Request for Change of Academic Adviser form (see above) with the newly selected faculty member.
Individual departments or programs, particularly those with many student majors, often develop procedures to guide the chair (or designee) in making advising assignments. Since responsibilities for faculty members may vary within a given department or program, these units can choose to “excuse” some faculty members from major advising responsibilities by limiting their number of student advisees, while other faculty can carry a disproportionately large advising responsibility because their workload allows it or because they are particularly good at or interested in advising.
To make the process of assigning advisers operate more smoothly, individual departments or programs are encouraged to develop protocols, guidelines, or procedures for adviser assignments and to make these known to all affected faculty. These protocols, guidelines, and procedures should be shared with the registrar and the staff in the appropriate dean’s office.
Student Advising by Program Faculty
Advising provides a means for faculty to communicate information to students such as campus and department/program course requirements, course sequencing, and overall student performance expectations. However, student advising can also play a vital role in information gathering for curriculum review and evaluation, course design, and student placement. It can help students achieve personal, professional, and career goals. And, when approached from a two-way perspective, advising can contribute to excellence in teaching by strengthening ongoing program evaluation and assessment and by encouraging professional development in faculty members.
Advising in the Minor
Although UIS has traditionally emphasized the importance of effective advising in the student’s major area of concentration, with many disciplines on campus now offering minors it is increasingly vital that faculty also advise students who are completing a minor in their department or program. Graduation contracts for bachelor’s candidates recognize the growing number of students pursuing minors in conjunction with their degrees by providing a signature line for faculty verification that course requirements for any specified minor have been met. Ideally, the signatory would be a faculty member in the minor who had been assigned to oversee the student’s progress toward satisfaction of the required curriculum. At present, because departments and programs still differ in their provisions for advising in the minor, faculty with questions about this should consult their chair, convener, or director.
However, certain issues generic to advising in any minor at UIS are summarized below. First, the minor is considered part of a degree, not a freestanding realm of study. Therefore, a student cannot take a minor at UIS independent of pursuing a degree in a major. Second, when a course is cross-listed by the student’s designated major and minor, that course can only count once toward satisfaction of requirements for graduation.
The Elements of Effective Advising
The Association of American Colleges identifies the following elements as characteristic of high-quality advising:
- sharing information on the goals and expectations of the program;
- helping students devise purposeful and coherent plans for study;
- discussing the culture of, and opportunities in, the field of study;
- exploring the aspirations and interests of the student;
- discussing employment opportunities in the field; and
- assisting students in the selection of graduate schools.
Successful advising also assumes that advisers are competent to help students navigate the campus and department/program policies and procedures that allow them to pass through various stages of their academic careers. Examples of these policies and procedures are:
- interpreting and discussing entry assessment scores;
- addressing department- or program-related issues (i.e., course sequencing, acceptable course substitutions, and specific course expectations);
- reviewing campus and department/program degree requirements;
- filing a student petition form for a special request;
- assisting with registration-related issues [i.e., With Permission of Instructor forms (WPIs), course overloads, wait listing, and add/drop procedures and deadlines]; and
- reviewing probation and suspension policies and procedures or other matters related to student rights.
A student’s individual scores from the campus assessment process provide a valuable tool for advisers as they assist the student in determining an academic plan. Faculty advisers can obtain information on the assessment process and instructions for interpreting scores from the Assessment Office in the Center for Teaching and Learning (Brookens 463, 6-7125). For more information about assessment at UIS, see Assessment in the Educational Support Services section of this handbook.
Advisers may become aware that a student is having difficulty in one or more areas and that additional resources or support could be either helpful or necessary. Information concerning various campus resources available to students, such as Counseling or Financial Assistance, can be found elsewhere in this handbook.
Documenting Advising Performance
The UIS Faculty Personnel Policy emphasizes student advising by faculty. Evaluation of advising in the personnel process has been closely tied to that of classroom teaching. For further information about advising, contact the chair, convener, or director of the appropriate department or program.