2011 Advising Summit Summary: Student Voice and Departmental Participation

The topic of this year’s Advising Summit was “Student Voice and Departmental Participation.”  A panel of students from a range of departments spoke about good practices in their respective departments for soliciting student voice and engaging students in the shaping of the department’s undergraduate program(s) and opportunities. 

Katherine Riley (English, Communications) spoke about the importance of community and the role that the Undergraduate English Association plays in this, as well as the new Student Lounge and the walk-in advising that is held there.  She also mentioned the role that students played in recent revisions to the major curriculum, and the role of communication from the department to students, specifically, the English department’s interactive newsletter.

John Weiss (History) discussed the History department’s new advising system, which includes faculty mentors for all majors and was developed in part through input from the UG committee on which students serve.  He also talked about the newly formed History Club, which plans social and academically-related events, and works on building community in the department.

Christine Bedway (Undeclared, but exploring: Org Stds, Polsci, Pub Pol) talked about her interactions with prospective student advising in Org Stds and the sense of being engaged by being immediately put on an email list.  She also mentioned visitation days, information meetings, and walk-in advising within the context of access to information and advisors and its effect on students’ sense of connection to a department.

Yourui Yeo (Organizational Studies, Economics, German (minor)) spoke about the Major Council and how departments might use this as a means of information sharing.  She also emphasized the importance of interdepartmental collaboration and a range of opportunities for developing personal relationships with advisors and other students in a department, including participation on advisory and curriculum committees, student advisory boards, etc.

Christopher Barth (Psychology, CICS, CASC (minor)) focused on the Newnan Center Student Consulting Group and the importance of such groups for engaging students and soliciting student feedback.  He spoke eloquently of the benefits to departments in terms of greater student involvement and investment, and to students in terms of feeling empowered and developing professionally.

Participants were asked to consider the following questions in advance for small group discussion at the event:

  • Are there particular areas of departmental decision-making and programming where student involvement is more/less desirable and/or practical?  Why is this the case?
  • What are the most successful programs or other forms of soliciting and engaging student voice and participation in your department?  How do you define and measure success?  What makes them successful?  Would they be implementable in other departments?
  • What are the challenges to soliciting and engaging student voice and participation in your department?  How have you attempted to deal with or actually successfully dealt with these challenges?

From the discussions, the following points related to student participation in departments arose:

  • Areas for participation: these may vary from department to department but include:
    • Curriculum: examples include revisions to English and History majors.
    • Courses: examples include new course offerings in Asian Studies and History.
    • Intellectual and Social Community: examples include History Club, Undergraduate English Association, Organizational Studies committees and advisory board.
  • Forms: there are many different forms and fora for student participation, student-to-student interaction being equally if not more important than direct student-department interaction.
    • (P2P)
      • Student Orgs: can be excellent means for nurturing student leaders as well as “joiners” to build critical mass; can also be a valuable resource for organizing events and programs with minimal (or no) departmental resources needed.
      • Lounge: both departments and students extolled the virtues of having a dedicated space for students to gather.  If there is no space in the department that can be permanently assigned for this purpose, working with staff, instructors, and/or graduate students to manage access to and scheduling of other departmental space on a more limited basis could be a compromise solution.
      • Peer Advisors/Mentors: using advanced students as peer advisors and/or mentors (whether official or unofficial) offers them an opportunity for professional development, as well as expanding department advising resources and providing an additional means of bringing in more students to events and programs.
      • Tutors: same as previous.
    • (S2D)
      • Student Orgs: see above; if no student leader emerges (see below), a more hands-on approach by the department may be necessary.
      • Committees: are an excellent way to include student voice as well as provide students with a professional development opportunity.  Type of committee and role of student participation will vary by department.
      • Advisory/Consulting Boards: same as previous.
      • Surveys: can be conducted with greater frequency than a one-time exit survey; can ask students about curricular issues, course offerings, departmental advising, programming, interest in serving on or establishing a student organization, peer advising program, etc.
  • Challenges (and Solutions):
    • How to do outreach and increase student involvement:
      • Email: less is more; develop a digest; try to target specific interests.
      • Instructors/classes: take advantage of the captive audience.
      • Existing student organization: p2p outreach can work better than department to student.
      • Peer leaders: same as previous.
      • Surveys: see above.
    • How to nurture student leaders and cultivate joiners:
      • Identify early: use orientation student interest surveys.
      • Target already engaged students: solicit instructor/advisor recommendations.
      • Give meaningful opportunities for engagement: see above.

2011 Advising Summit: Thursday, November 17

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