Bringing up academic advising during standard small talk among Marquette students is sure to bring about a series of broad, but equally fervent responses. Academic situations vary from student to student, but academic advising at Marquette and its effectiveness in preparing students for graduation is often described as either a nightmare or a godsend.
ADVISING’S TWO WAY STREET FOR STUDENTS
While students who enter Marquette as first semester freshman are assigned a departmental major adviser, transfer students follow a somewhat different advising track. Meghan Dolan, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences transferred to Marquette from the University of Arizona at the beginning of her sophomore year. She said advising was a factor in her decision to transfer.
“I didn’t have an adviser at the University of Arizona,” Dolan said. “I didn’t know who to go to with questions about required courses and what ones would go with my major. I didn’t know who to talk to, and just had a general lack of direction.”
Dolan said after being accepted into Marquette, she received an e-mail from the Advising Department at the College of Arts and Sciences over the summer and then was able to then meet with an academic adviser to map out the courses she needed before she registered for classes.
“I met with my adviser before school even started and we talked a lot, which was really nice. She set up sheets and helped me map out my gen eds and everything I needed to do to graduate on time, and how I could get classes to double count for requirements, because I behind on credits,” said Dolan. “She’s been super helpful.”
Dolan met with her adviser twice more throughout her first semester, and said her adviser made herself very available to discuss any questions and concerns.
“She was really good about making sure I was adjusting and fitting in and making friends, making sure I was in the right classes.”
After her first year at Marquette, Dolan was assigned a major-specific adviser to meet with every semester before registration.
“I have a specific academic adviser now, but she’s relatively new and I’ve always wondered, do they really know what I need other than what’s a good major-related course for me to take?”
As positive as Dolan’s advising experience as been, College of Communication junior Joe Gacioch hasn’t been as fortunate, his advising experience at Marquette has been, in his words, “below average to say the least.”
Gacioch entered Marquette as a broadcast and electronic communication major, and was initially assigned a faculty member in that department as an adviser. Gacioch switched to Public Relations, subsequently changing advisers.
“She was either in her first or second year at MU, so she was unclear as to what classes I had to take to fulfill core, college and major requirements. As such, I basically had to figure out my requirements on my own,” Gacioch said.
Gacioch explains that although he is required to meet with his adviser, he usually has his classes already picked out.
“I was in Johnston Hall, not just her office, for eight minutes for my last advising session,” Gacioch said.
In addition to his poor experience, Gacioch said many of his friends have also had “below average experiences with their advisers.”
“I think that many students are unsatisfied with the advising system, as a whole, because of the lack of required sessions.”
MARQUETTE’S ADVISING STRUCTURE AND PHILOSOPHY
Each college at Marquette individually organizes and assigns advisers to students who have declared a major, but the Advising Center in the College of Arts and Sciences has a distinctively comprehensive program for Arts and Sciences students, transfer students and students who have an undecided major.
According to their Web site, the Advising Center utilizes full-time professional advisers who are available to assist students with “choosing a major, utilizing study skills techniques, determining career goals, selecting and scheduling courses and preparing for professional school.”
The Advising Center promises that their advisers will know students well and meet individually until a major is declared and other questions regarding courses, majors and careers are answered.
Brenna Vogel, who is an Academic Adviser at the Advising Center for College of Arts and Sciences takes that promise seriously. As a full-time pre-major adviser, Vogel works with 150 students on a one on one basis. Vogel typically meets with freshman, sophomores and transfer students from other universities or colleges within Marquette until they are paired with a faculty adviser in their area of study in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I really get to know the students that I serve,” Vogel said. “I aim to see each student three times a semester, more if he/she wants. If a student is on academic probation, I meet with him/her weekly to make sure that we are working together to achieve academic success.”
Vogel also assists students with study abroad plans, summer school options and to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college, holds workshops on time management, organizes the College Majors Fair and does curriculum presentations during Orientation and Preview.
“I love what I do and I love my students. Advising is extremely rewarding and truly gives me a chance to get to know students on a personal level. My goal is to embody “cura personalis,” care for the whole person – mind, body, and spirit.”
MAJOR ADVISER PERSPECTIVE
College of Communication Associate professor, Dr. Ana Garner has been a faculty adviser for 16 years, and said faculty are expected to become familiar with the requirements of the major, college and university when advising students.
“The College of Communication has always held information sessions as things changed. Since faculty oversee requirements and course content they are usually familiar with changes that occur. The information sessions help fill in the gaps.”
Garner said College of Communication faculty undergoes supplemental training as academic requirements change and said balancing an advisee load is a part of being a faculty member just as much as teaching and researching.
“It is part of the ebb and flow of academic life, thus advising demands change as we move through the academic year in the same way the other work does.”
In his role as chair of the political science department, Dr. Lawrence LeBlanc, who has been advising and teaching at Marquette for 40 years, is responsible for assigning and meeting with all students who declare a major in political science.
“Yes, I would consider myself accountable to the College for the efficiency of the advising program in Political Science,” LeBlanc said. Students can either choose or be assigned an adviser after meeting with LeBlanc. He said, “the ability for students to choose their adviser is important.”
“I make every effort to be sure that students have advisers they will be comfortable working with,” LeBlanc said. “Advising is very important, but not all students see it as very important. Some want help not only with course selection but with working out, or at least thinking about, career plans and options. Others do not and are very self-reliant in making decisions on such matters.”
LeBlanc, who received the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Advising Award in 2006, said he was given no training on advising when he first came to Marquette.
“From time to time I went to advising workshops, particularly when I served as a Freshman Adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences. I do not require that the faculty undergo special training.”
Despite the lack of a formal training program, LeBlanc said the faculty in his department consult among themselves and share knowledge and insight on advising.
“Our objective is to provide first-rate advising to students, and I would say that we almost invariably achieve that.”