For many undergraduates, freshman year is the first time they have had primary responsibility for their own education, and they have questions: What classes do I take? How do I find research or internship opportunities? How do I shape my education to help me be successful after college?
At Johns Hopkins, the response to these questions is not so much a set of answers as a series of conversations in which students can draw on the guidance of an experienced adviser over time. This process of moving from newly minted high school graduate to prepared-to-tackle-life college senior is so integral to the undergrad experience that the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Whiting School of Engineering are embarking on a two-year initiative to evaluate and improve their academic advising processes.
Along with 11 other colleges and universities around the country, Krieger and Whiting were selected to the two-year Excellence in Academic Advising, or EAA, effort, an evidence-based redesign process that helps institutions create and implement a comprehensive strategic plan for academic advising.
EAA fellows will guide the schools in examining current advising practices, surveying students, and re-envisioning the role of faculty and academic advising, yielding a comprehensive improvement plan for each school. Janet Weise, assistant dean for undergraduate academic affairs for the Whiting School, and Kathie Sindt, associate director for academic advising at the Krieger School, will serve as the official Hopkins EAA liaisons.
"This process will help our advisers and our faculty interact most productively with students," says Joel Schildbach, vice dean for undergraduate education for the Krieger School. "We want advisers to have meaningful conversations with their students that help them to make the most of their time at Hopkins and to start drafting a plan for their lives after college."
The effort, which started this month, is being led by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. NACADA is a global association of professional advisors, counselors, faculty members, and administrators dedicated to enhancing the educational development of students in higher education through research, professional development, and leadership. The nonprofit Gardner Institute partners with colleges, universities, philanthropic organizations, educators, and other entities to increase institutional responsibility for improving outcomes associated with teaching, learning, retention, and completion.
"Participating in this evidence-based study of advising practices will enable us to better understand the impact of the many components that make up student advising," Weise said, "and to adjust our practices to guide student success."