Our current advising system is broken. It provides no incentive for getting it right. At least for the most part. Each year, a handful of professors receive awards for being good advisers. However, this system isn’t working. Especially in light of the transition to the Pathways system. I know this because last semester a handful of first-years showed up to my dorm with tears in their eyes. They had no clue how to craft their schedule for the next semester. Each one of them had stated that they had met with their adviser, but that their advisers had been little to no help. Whether this was the fault of the students or the fault of the advisers, I do not know. I proceeded to sit down with them and create their schedule for them. All of them loved their schedules that I made for them and I have yet to hear a single complaint.
However, I have a solution to ensure that this crisis does not happen again. Each year, provide rising juniors and seniors with the opportunity to apply to be advising assistants in the department(s) of their respective major(s) and minor(s). These assistants would sit in on advising meetings between first-year and their advisors. They would be able to offer actual advice on which classes to take and which pathways to pursue. They would also be available to meet with the students outside of business hours, flexibility that most professors do not have. The fact is that students have a better understanding of the difficulty of a course than someone who is a master in the field. Additionally, professors can only state what they have heard about particular classes whereas the student may have actually taken the course or almost certainly would know someone who had completed the course. Advising assistants would also likely be more knowledgeable about classes outside of the department of the adviser and be able to provide quality feedback on FYE and Pathways courses.
Furthermore, the advising assistants could be given bonuses based on how satisfied students were with their schedules. This would create the incentive for advising assistants to get the schedules right.
Trinity is too good of a school for students to struggle with their schedules. Especially when we have the resources to help them. It is always hard to criticize people who are in positions of authority, particularly people who have dedicated their lives to studying and become true masters of a subject. Let’s open this dialogue and fix the system. Together, we can make Trinity great again.