Assistant Dean of Learning Assistance and Dean of Sophomores Vicki Roth and Director for the College Center for Academic Support and Dean of Freshmen Marcy Kraus explained the roles they play in the advising system with the Campus Times.
What does it really mean to be the dean of freshmen and the dean of sophomores?
Marcy Kraus: The Dean of the college has charged me with being responsible for the overall well-being of the freshman class, so I would say that a really large part of being the Dean of Freshmen is to be aware of the human concerns that affect freshmen, being available to individual freshmen when they have a question, a concern, being responsive to parents of freshmen if they have questions or concerns and, jointly with Vicki, overseeing the advising program.
I assign all of the pre-major advisers for those students who intend to come in and pursue a major in [the College of] Arts and Sciences. The engineering advisers are actually assigned according to the engineering major so that’s a little bit of a distinction between what we do with Engineering and what we do with Arts and Sciences. And so we support the pre-major advisers, we select, we support, we train, we do a lot of training with them, meet with them regularly, correspond with them by e-mail quite a bit.
I would say that those are probably the main roles for dean of freshmen.
Vicki Roth: And a lot of it holds true for the dean of sophomores position as well. Where [Kraus’s] job in a lot of ways is to help guide the class as they transition from high school into college, part of what I’m trying to… is take a look at how they transition from the beginning of their college years to a major. And we hope by the end of their sophomore year that students would have a reasonably well-developed academic plan for themselves.
It’s not a contract, people can make changes to it, but they’re ready to turn to their last half of their college experience.
Not only are we taking a look at what’s going on in terms of the advising program, but also they should probably know that there are programs out there throughout the year for both freshmen and sophomores. Sometimes these programs overlap with each other, sometimes they’re more specific to a particular class.
What were some of your priorities and initiatives for this year?
VR: As you know, it was commented on in the article, last year we made this fairly substantial change in extending sophomore advising. It seemed to work well, students came to their advising appointments and the advisers talked to us a lot about the conversations that people were having. I would say that one of the things that I continue to work on it’s always a priority is really helping sophomores feel really confident about developing that academic plan. I kind of put the emphasis on the concept of a plan, not just declaring your major. Declaring your major is part of it, but it’s also developing minors, double majors, clusters, maybe thinking about their study abroad, internship-type activities, independent studies, research that they might want to engage in.
MK: And I would say that an ongoing priority for the two of us is to make sure we communicate with the pre-major advisers, and we have a core of over 100 pre-major advisers now and that includes engineering faculty who advise engineering students and they hear from us as well.
We regularly send e-mails to them about everything from registration that is coming up next month: Now is the time to reach out to your students to schedule appointments to providing them with information about programs that may be of interest to their advisees.
How are students assigned to a pre-major adviser?
MK: I would say it’s kind of a unique process. The idea for the assignments went hand-in-hand with the development of freshmen housing, which has now been on campus for almost 10 years now. Both of us were actually here during those discussions when we went from a very mixed class-year housing system to freshmen housing. There were a lot of the interesting discussions around the benefits.
Many students who come to college, not just [UR], may have an idea in mind as to what they want to study, but oftentimes, they change their plan along the way. We recognize the value of making a match with an adviser with a person who is a generalist, somebody who knows a lot about the college and isn’t necessarily going to be a specialist in one area. Part of that thinking, I think, comes from the fact that academic advising in college is very different from academic advising in high school. If there’s one thing that I talk about with the parents of freshmen and try to talk about with the incoming freshmen during orientation is that now that you’re in college, you bring a responsibility to that advising relationship.
How are professors picked as advisers and how does the adviser orientation work?
MK: Although the majority of our pre-major advisers are faculty members, we have an increasing number of administrator pre-major advisers, so it’s all voluntary. At some universities everybody is required to advise, but we ask people to express an interest in advising. Each year we identify people who we would like to have as part of our program. We try to make sure that every academic department is represented. We ask chairs for input and recommendations, and sometimes it’s a word of mouth thing. And then as far as the training, we do it right before orientation. We offer three sessions it’s basically a morning plus lunch; it’s pretty extensive. Vicki and I lead the training and we trade off. There are specific things that all advisers should know. For example: Here’s how biology works or how chemistry and the labs work, because we know those are common courses.
Any one question that you would have liked us to ask about?
VR: Well, I can tell you what I’d like more input about. I would love to hear from students about what they would like to see in adviser training. We do glean from students’ input what should be there, but we don’t have a formalized way of collecting that information from students. They are in a great position to tell us what could be better or different in some way.
Clark is a member of
the class of 2012.
Ostrander is a member of
the class of 2013.