Advising Responsibilities

 Dr. Follett in his office advising a student, photo courtesy of Abby Whisler

Dr. Follett in his office advising a student, photo courtesy of Abby Whisler

Since the beginning of the semester, the Academic Standards Committee has taken the next step to delineate guidelines for students and faculty advisors in the registration process and their interaction with the Center for Student Success, stressing that faculty advisors will continue to be the primary consultants concerning class scheduling, credit requirements, and major-specific planning.

Overall, Covenant’s registration process has been highly successful, with statistics from the 2014 Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) and the 2013 National Survey of Student Engagement reporting that Covenant Students are generally more satisfied with their advisory experience than students of similar private colleges.  However, Dr. Richard Follett, chairman of the Academic Standards Committee hopes that these guidelines will continue to clarify what is expected for those involved in what he calls “an evolving relationship” between students, faculty advisors, and the Center for Student Success.

"Faculty members do not want to lose track of what's going on with their advisees,” explains Follett, adding that, “students are still expected to meet with their faculty advisors to discuss pre-registration and course choices.”   

A student’s failure to communicate with their advisors could potentially leave in holes in their major’s requirements.  Follett says that, "even one course short of 126 can disrupt graduation plans, or having 126 total but lacking a key course in a major or in the Core, especially if it is a necessary course that is only offered less than once a year” can put a student in a bind.

According to the Center for Student Success’s page on the Covenant website, the office was created to “provide tutoring, personal advising, and tailored resources aimed at helping students succeed during their time at Covenant.”  When it comes to personal advising, Ocando says her area of expertise is helping students pinpoint a major that best fits their ability and desires, but not selecting individual classes.  “With a student who is unsure of their major, my goal is to get to know them. I want to know what they are passionate about, what gifts they think they have, and what they would like to pursue,” she explains.

While the Center for Student Success is beneficial for helping students select a major, the 2014 SSI survey states that 84% of Covenant students were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the faculty advisor’s knowledge of major requirements.   Covenant students also left their advisory meetings 17% more satisfied than students at similar colleges.

An advisor’s expertise on a major’s requirements must be quite specific, stemming from experience in the department. “Each department has distinct requirements for their majors, some with greater structure and specialization for advising;” Follett says, “some have multiple track options, and others, like the Education Department, have fairly inflexible scheduling requirements for all four years."

Thus far, only a few students have brought questions to The Center that only faculty advisors could answer.  In response to these circumstances, Ocando said, “I usually send the student to meet with their faculty member or work with them on questions to ask their advisor when they meet… it is always helpful to slow down and ask questions before a meeting starts.”  A consultation with Ocando functions as precursory discussion for advisory meetings.  “I am always glad to see students seeking help and thinking ahead whether it is on resumes or registration. Us taking a moment to re-direct someone if we aren't the best people to help, doesn't seem like a waste of time to me,” she says.

Consequently, it is the student’s responsibility to keep tabs on their schedule and initiate follow-up conversations with their advisor if changes are made after registration, but Follett states that both students and faculty members should be better informed about the registration process, the purpose of faculty advisors, and scheduling tools provided on Bannerweb, such as the Degree Evaluation tab.  Ocando also agrees that “confusion about the Center’s role will continue to decrease as we become more established and students have more exposure to us.”

Additions to the faculty handbook outlining this issue should be in their initial stages by the week after Spring Break and hopefully completed in time for pre-registration.