Chapman University offers a cohesive academic advising program, but students don’t know how to use it.
Some Chapman students do not know that their major and minor specific questions need to be addressed by their faculty program advisor and not by the academic advising center. Shannon Baker, Chapman’s one dedicated undeclared advisor, is available for undeclared students to meet within the academic advising center. The four main areas of advising at Chapman are professional advising, program advising, specialized advising, and faculty mentoring advising. The AAC currently has nine advisors, making the AAC advisor to student ratio roughly one to 915.
Despite these resources, some students say they aren’t informed about how to use them and are thus disappointed by the lack of efficiency and personalized guidance by the academic advising center.
Junior strategic and corporate communications major Shoshone Truro-Allee believes there’s a disconnect between general advisors, the registrar, and program advisors.
“After telling me they can’t help me with choosing and signing into classes, the academic advising center redirected me to a program advisor,” Truro-Allee said. “The program advisor told me to go to the registrar and the registrar pointed me in yet another direction. There was a lot of confusion and running around.”
Truro-Allee said she had to figure out how to pick classes herself for SCC and learned what she had to do from experience instead of from one person giving her tangible steps.
“I asked the AAC how I can determine which department I’d best fit into, and they read my program evaluation to me,” Truro-Allee said. “I can do that myself.”
Senior strategic and corporate communications major Molly Silk has the same issue.
“It took me my whole freshman year to figure out what classes to register for and it was difficult not knowing who to talk to,” Silk said. “When I thought I’d finally found someone, I was redirected and redirected again. I wish there was a stronger connection between program advisors and general advisors.”
Director of Academic Advising Roberto Coronel acknowledged the concern and said he wishes to figure out how the AAC can address it.
“Students don’t always necessarily understand our structure, in that they don’t know when to go to the AAC versus a program advisor,” Coronel said. “The AAC is here to help students understand overall degree requirements and any specific questions about major requirements are handled by program advisors.”
All incoming freshmen have the option to go through a mandatory online advising tutorial or attend a summer advising workshop in order to become familiar with the advising system in addition to navigating the student center and understanding the program evaluation, according to Coronel. If a student has additional questions, they can schedule an appointment with a general advisor. Should a student need personalized academic mentoring, help with postgraduate planning, or planning support for interdisciplinary programs and self-designed majors and minors, they should seek out faculty-mentoring, Coronel said.
“While program advisors answer major and minor-specific questions, they won’t get into GE requirements, so normally there would be a referral to come back to our office,” Coronel said. “This could explain the running around.”
Program advisors can be inefficient and at times don’t recognize that they are program advisors, according to some students.
Sophomore political science major Madison Buss said her initially assigned program advisor failed to respond to her emails, so Buss’ mother got involved, and Buss’ new advisor was an assistant head of AAC.
“It wasn’t well explained that you need to find a faculty advisor for your major. I didn’t have one until three weeks ago,” Buss said. “I think program advisors should be systemized into a group, and that if someone is assigned to you, they should reach out to you right away.”
Coronel agreed that ideally there should be a system in place and an option for a freshman to choose their program advisor, but each department is different and assigns program advisors in a way that works for that particular department.
Coronel said the AAC used to have a better sense of what students’ concerns are when he collaborated with a student representative from SGA, but since the leadership changed, he hasn’t met with one in years.
“I want to hear directly from the students on how we can improve,” Coronel said. “I have not heard direct student complaints since I worked closely with SGA.”
Associate Director for Content Development of the National Academic Advising Association Jennifer Joslin said that Chapman’s issue could be that not every group of advisors has an advising mission statement, so the advisors don’t know if their interactions with students should be transactional or transformational.
“Chapman should transition their system from schedule building to academic advising, by which students can engage with advisors to learn about themselves,” Joslin said. “Having a conversation with a program advisor should reinforce the students’ trust that they are on track, pursuing the right major, and are in the right institution.”