UAR to add more Academic Directors, Pre-Major Advisors

Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) will add two new academic directors and recruit more pre-major advisors (PMA) in upcoming years in accordance with the suggestions of the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES), according to Kirsti Copeland, director of residentially based advising.

The SUES report, which also put forward sweeping changes to undergraduate academic requirements, proposed several changes to the PMA program, including expanding the pool of faculty pre-major advisors, reintroducing peer advising and increasing the number of academic directors (who also advise students).

Peer advising will not be reintroduced, however, because – according to Copeland – it is more appropriate for particular departments and programs than for general pre-major advising.

“Everything was done in order for the average number [of advisees] to go down to six per advisor,” explained Melissa Stevenson ’96, academic director in Florence Moore Hall.

In previous years, an average of eight students have been assigned to each advisor.

Stevenson framed the changes in advising as ultimately beneficial to both students and advisors within the PMA program.

“Students get more one-on-one time with their advisors, and the time commitment for advisors is reduced,” she said.

Copeland, Stevenson, and Salem Aweiss, a PMA for students living in FloMo, agreed that there is still room for improvement in the advising program beyond the new changes.

“One thing we would like to work on is messaging to PMAs and students what we expect them to be doing,” Copeland said.

Copeland also expressed a desire for the advising program to grow in scope while becoming more efficient.

“I just hope we can continue to get more and more faculty involved and that we do better messaging,” she said.

Aweiss echoed the call for more faculty to volunteer as advisors and emphasized the mutual benefits of advising. He claimed that making potential PMAs aware of the benefits of being a PMA, streamlining the training process and finding some sort of compensation for PMAs – such as a thank-you note or nominal compensation – might encourage broader participation in the PMA program.

“I can’t comment on the overhaul of availability of advisors,” Aweiss said. “What I can say is that my experience has been very positive. The interaction with the students has been pleasurable and I certainly hope that they got something good [and] positive out of the interaction. I would certainly encourage other faculty to have a go at it.”

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