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Advisement center angst

Many Georgia State students have complained about the University Academic Center and its seemingly quick turnover, while officials say they’re simply promoting more. Photo Illustration by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

With the semester nearly over, students flock to the University Advisement Center to get advice on their classes and to better mould their schedule so that they can graduate on time with a degree. However, some students said their experience with their advisers was less than ideal.

One student said that her adviser wasn’t helping to get the classes she needed to graduate.

“I’m not really a fan of them,” Nichole Graves said. “One acted like they didn’t care at all when I had questions about classes. She just rushed me out. The next person didn’t know how to schedule the right classes for me. The last one I went to said I needed well over the 30 credits I have left.”

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Several complaints and concerns echoed this sentiment.

“I don’t understand what’s really hard about making your own schedule and why you would go to advisors. They are complete s— and don’t know what they are doing,” Jerry Vo said.

However, Director of University Advisement Elisha Jarrett, who has been working in the center for 28 years, said students can work with the Student Government Association to issue complaints and ask for changes to be made.

“We have regular and ongoing [meetings] with SGA … In fact we just finished a pretty large focus group where we focused on some of the concerns of the students as it relates to advising,” she said.

Some students said they were assigned multiple advisers throughout an academic year.

“I have had 6 advisors. Not one has ever been helpful. My current advisor gives me one sentence responses if she bothers to respond,” said student Henry Bernreuter.

Jarrett said that some of the changes in advisers is not from a high turnover rate or apathy but rather from the basic structure of how the advisement center works.

“We have what we call tier-leveled advising. We have advisers one, two and three and then we have graduation counselors. And, as you can imagine, each level has different expectations or minimum qualifications,” she said.

Whenever a student is assigned an adviser, there’s no guarantee that relationship will last due to the adviser being promoted. The promotion system serves to retain the advisers rather than lose them.

“When I was an academic adviser, we didn’t have tiered advising. That meant I got into an advising position I had nowhere to advance … We very intentionally went out and made it so that we could have tier-leveled advising so that instead of our advisers leaving, we would have an opportunity to promote them,” she said.

With this tier-leveled structure, an adviser who originally advised STEM majors, or any major for that matter, could potentially transfer to a different department with a new set of advisees, which may cause the problem that Bernreuter said he had.

Still, Jarrett said the effect their promotions have on students isn’t a concern to them.

“We’re not not going to promote an adviser … So what happens is [they’re] now promoted … so now [they] have a new group of advisees,” Jarrett said.

The advisers also go through extensive training for several weeks before they ever meet with their first student.

“Once the advisers are selected … we have a set training for … a cohort of advisers that come in. These trainings are, the modules are already set,” Jarrett said. “We do revise them as we deem appropriate and deem needed, but the adviser training is about four to six weeks. There’s definitely a flatlined four weeks where the new advisers are going straight through nothing but training.”

After their initial training, new advisers are sometimes assigned more experienced advisers for on-the-job training.

“Sometimes, depending on the progression of the advisers, the extra two weeks is spent with doing what we call shadowing,” she said.

Despite these assurances, Maria Ahmed had a different problem with advisement. She said that she had been passed around several advisers who ended up not helping her.

“It is indeed very frustrating, as I needed advice, and finally resorted to talking with a professor who showed me my options. Also, walkin advisement appointments are useless and the advisors are often clueless or careless,” she said.

Students have two options when they want to speak to an adviser: they can make an appointment, or they can walk in. Jarrett said she advises all students to opt for the former option.

“We have walk-ins anytime. And so when a student walks in, we hope that they can see their adviser. But if their adviser already has appointments that day, they have to see the next available adviser,” she said.

Some people said they were concerned about the quality of advisement and that the advisers didn’t help them enough.

Jarrett said that it’s important that students use the evaluation tools available to them in order to get the best service possible.

“We ask every student to do a survey,” she said. “Those surveys help us structure our trainings throughout the year … it takes a very short amount of time to do the surveys.”

They also work to ensure that the advisers aren’t overwhelmed with students so they can provide the quality help students need.

“We have been very, very strategic in trying to make sure that the adviser populations are small enough where the adviser can have very one-on-one intentional service. Everybody’s personality is not the same,” she said. “Customer service is not an option, it’s something that is an expectation.”

Outside of the Georgia State advisement center, some advisers travel around the country to showcase the programs and procedures that the university’s advisement has adopted, but this isn’t publicized to students.

“There’s a reason that we host as many universities and institutions that we do. There’s a reason that we get to go out and share what we do all across the country and it’s because other universities are trying to immolate what we’re doing,” Jarrett said.

1 Comment

  1. Why the Advisement Center Isn’t Likely to Change

    Georgia State University boasts about not only it’s diversity but also improved graduation rates over time. Since the quantitative data is there in the form of graduation numbers, it’s unlikely that the University’s advisement center will change. Sure, they have surveys, and you can collaborate with SGA. (Woo! I hope you feel your power!) However, when quantitative data is there, often institutions care less about the qualitative data. This, over time, hurts institutions. A common trend you see when quantitative data is present is that you will be asked for your opinion, so you can feel as if it matters. However, it doesn’t really matter too much because they are already producing the quantitative data they want. We also see this phenomenon in business as well as K-12 institutions. Advisers showcase their program around the country? Yeah, it’s unlikely to change. The advisement center is going to continue to pat themselves on the back and attribute the graduation rate to what they are doing, rather than the resiliency level of the current student population. One could argue that the current student population is graduating despite the advisement center, rather than because of it. After all, a considerable amount of the undergraduate population spent their teen years during some of the worst parts of the recession. That’s resilient! There is a missed opportunity to make things even better by ignoring student concerns. Additionally, it puts the University at risk in other ways, yet the quantitative data is there. Therefore, the advisement office is unlikely to change.

    The good news is, you all will most likely graduate despite them. Continue to fill out your surveys, you never know if there is an innovator in the advisement office who decides to do the right thing and glance at them. : )

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