Academics, News

Advising across the board

At the end of each term, about 10,400 full-time University of Miami students across the nine schools rush to the advising offices to plan for next semester.

With this many students and schools, however, advising systems differ based on the number of students in each school and the curriculum. Each program has certain requirements and expectations for its students and a distinct advising style to go along with them.

Other factors, such as cross-school registration and the appointment process, have added difficulties to the process.

Making appointments

Before registering for classes, most students make an appointment to meet with an advisor. Each school has its own means of scheduling these appointments.

Some colleges, like the School of Communication (SoC), have transitioned to an application that allows students to make advising appointments online. This new system allows students to make an appointment with their advisor through the school’s website.

Students like junior Samantha Pintado,  who is enrolled in the SoC, finds the new online system “a bit easier and more organized.”

The School of Business Administration also facilitates advising appointments with GradesFirst.com, an online resource that connects students and faculty.

Many advisors in the business school take accessibility a step further, especially during class registration time.

“My advisor tried to make walk-in hours available in case you didn’t sign up online, so you could still walk in and make an appointment,” said Christian Horn, a sophomore in the business school. “That’s been very helpful.”

According to sophomore Elliana Golijov, her advisor in the School of Education, Gina Astorini, is almost always available for walk-in appointments. The School of Education website also listed preferred dates for scheduled appointments based on the student’s major and year.

About 531 students are enrolled in the School of Education for fall 2014, according to UM’s main website. The kinesiology advisor, Bethany Angiolillo, sees about 350 to 400 students, and Astorini advises about 200 to 250 students.

Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) students usually have access to an advisor without having to schedule an appointment. Most advisors at the marine school see fewer than 100 students.

RSMAS also allows students to confer with more than one advisor, so if a student’s primary advisor is not available for a walk-in, chances are another advisor will be able to help them.

“Some people see multiple advisors. We allow students to see who they want,” said Will Drennan, associate dean for undergraduate education at RSMAS. “We don’t make it mandatory that they keep seeing the person they are assigned to.”

Arts and Sciences, Canelink

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), UM’s largest school with about 4,278 enrolled in fall 2014, assigns students an advisor based on their major. Students who have not declared a major are also housed in CAS.

“This is due to the size of the College of Arts and Sciences and the volume of advising needs,” said Athena Sanders, assistant dean of Academic Services for CAS. “Other schools have more centralized advising, but each have a different approach to advising as their students progress through degrees.”

Some students in the CAS develop a comprehensive plan for their full four years at UM with their advisor while others plan their courses each semester.

Some students, such as sophomore Josh Zuchniarz, who is triple majoring in chemistry, math and physics in CAS, find themselves lost in the shuffle. In his experience, the advisors listed on CaneLink are not the most knowledgeable about the curriculum and the CaneLink system.

“I’ve often found myself without guidance from faculty and not knowing something about the classes I want to take,” he said. “I wish that, rather than assigning students to a professor in their major’s department for advising, students were assigned dedicated faculty advisors who have a more full knowledge of CaneLink.”

In 2013, CaneLink replaced the prior online interface, myUM, to view and select classes. The program has been met with dissatisfaction from students and advisors alike.

“Advising would be much better if CaneLink was updated and classes that no longer exist are removed from pre-requisite requirements,” said sophomore AJ Skiera, who majors in history and political science in CAS. “Additionally, some advisors have difficulty using CaneLink, so increased awareness in navigating the CaneLink website would be beneficial.”

Despite some frustration, CaneLink has also had many positive benefits on the advising and class-selection process, according to Sanders.

The website allows students to be more independent by giving them the ability to register for classes, create a planner, review their academic records, view holds and directly email their assigned advisor. CaneLink also helps students keep track of financial aid and tuition.

“Any identified issues have been related to the simple fact that it is a new system and it takes time to learn all the details of a new powerful data system,” she said.

Across the Board

Other schools, such as RSMAS, also allow for some flexibility in planning.

“My advisor, Dr. Drennan, is great with giving options of what courses I could take and when I could take them,” said Samantha Dowiarz, a RSMAS student.

This, however, is not the case in all of UM’s schools. The Nursing School takes a different approach to advising depending on the student’s academic track.

“BSN [Bachelor of Science in Nursing] students are typically on a planned four-year program of study,” said Yenisey Cabrera, a senior academic advisor in the nursing school. “BSHS [Bachelor of Science in Health Science] and BSPH [Bachelor of Science in Public Health] are more likely to be semester by semester and we do plan out their four years individually depending on their transfer credits.”

In the School of Engineering (SoE), School of Education and School of Architecture (SoA), advising is rigid because of the degrees’ rigorous requirements.

“Since engineers have a very strict academic schedule, most of our courses are sequenced,” said Olivia Cabanas, a freshman in SoE. “There is not a lot of flexibility for creating our own schedule, like students in other colleges.”

Students studying architecture start each new semester with most of their courses already predetermined. Samuel Wyner, a junior in SoA minoring in marketing said that architecture school advisors “really tell us everything that we have to do. It’s not like business where you have a bit more of a choice… I choose usually three classes every semester. The rest are chosen for me.”

The School of Business Administration may have a little more flexibility for students in their course requirements, but with five advisors working with more than 2,000 students, finding time to fully advise each student can be difficult.

“It would be really fantastic if we could have more advisors,” said Jeanne Batridge, the director of advising for the business school. “But there are financial constraints. It depends upon what the upper administration deems important.”

To be able to efficiently advise with their current staff, the business school has implemented a system in which freshman are assigned a teaching assistant (TA) based on an introductory business class. The TA helps answer any questions that the student has about their academics. Each TA oversees 10 freshmen, allowing them to work together closely.

“[TAs] assist [freshmen]in the class first semester, then plan their curriculum and see what they’re enrolled in,” Batridge said. “In the second semester, even though a freshman isn’t tied to Business 101 anymore, they’re still going to meet with them. It’s kind of like a fellow, like they do in the residence halls.”

Junior Matthew Getzoff, who works as a TA in the business school, sees the benefit of this system.

“Before my freshmen storm in there not knowing what class to take, they come to me first,” Getzoff said. “By the time they got in [to see their advisor], they tell me that their meeting was very quick and smooth.”

Whether being advised by a TA or professor, students acknowledge the advantage of working with someone familiar with the courses. The advisors in RSMAS and the Frost School of Music are also professors in the school.

For RSMAS sophomore Katy Erceg, this is beneficial because “it’s nice to have sort of a guide to know what classes to be taking when and who knows the program you’re in well.”

For schools with stricter requirements, such as the School of Education and Human Development, Frost and CoE, advisors place holds on all their course offerings before the enrollment period until students see their advisors.

SoE takes the “advising hold” one step further, barring students from signing up for their classes through CaneLink. Instead, students have to visit the office in person on the day that their enrollment opens to sign up for classes.

Senior Simone Douglas in SoE understands the policy but thinks that it also is the cause of many complications.

“I understand they do it because the degree has a lot credits and it’s crucial we meet all requirements,” she said. “However, waiting in line at the office on registration day can be frustrating. It would be easier to do it ourselves like the other majors.”

Cross-School Advising

Students looking to take classes in other schools or with majors and minors from different schools face their own set of challenges.

The business school, for example, places a hold on their classes so that non-business students cannot enroll in these classes until all business students had had an opportunity to sign up, according to Astorini, assistant dean of undergraduate academics in the School of Education.

“Many students were frustrated with the School of Business,” she said.

Although this hold frustrated many students, advisors in other schools, for the most part, understand.

“The business school ensured our office that non-business students would still be able to get into their courses,” Astorini said. “They just needed to give priority to business students. Advising offices understand this. Students were not very amenable.”

Communication between schools, particularly for students who are looking to double major or minor in a school other than their primary school, can also lead to problems.

Junior Matthew Smith is an architecture student could not believe adding a minor from a subject housed outside the SoA would be challenging.

“It’s really the stuff outside the School of Architecture that’s unsuccessful,” he said. “I have a computer science minor, and for a while I wasn’t able to add it because of, I think, something in their system about a lecture and lab. It just wasn’t working properly.”

Technical difficulties and problems signing up for classes can mostly be accredited to CaneLink, but difficulties double majoring or minoring outside of one’s primary school can also be attributed to a lack of interdepartmental communication.

Cabrera recognized the lack of communication. In response, she recently hosted meetings with advisors throughout the different schools at UM “to improve communication.”

Despite some of the issues within the advising departments, Batridge pointed out that students still need to be responsible when it comes to advising and registration.

“So, it could be not just a lack of knowing what to do or how to go about doing something or even a desire not to want to take responsibility and want to put that responsibility on somebody else. Sometimes that happens. It’s like a balancing act, getting those things all together,” she said.

Sherman Hewitt and Alina Zerpa contributed to this report.

November 16, 2014

Reporters

Emma Deardoff


ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Advising across the board”

  1. Andrew says:

    ** College of Engineering (CoE)

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