SAA Brown Bag Summary: LSA Student Gov's Dept. Best Practices & Conc. Council

Tue, 24 Jan 2012 12-1 pm

Summary: Melissa Burns from LSA Student Government presented their Best Practices documents which they have been developing over the past couple years.  Each semester Student Government chooses 3 to 4 topics on which to focus.  Information about these topics is gathered and student perspectives are solicited through the Major Council, as well as polls and ballot questions.  The results are compiled and written up as an executive best practice document, which is submitted to the LSA Dean’s Office.  These documents are also available for download from the LSA Student Government website: Thus far the following seven topics have been covered:

  1. Peer Advising
  2. Tutoring Resources
  3. Departmental Websites
  4. Department Structure
  5. Major Declaration Process
  6. CTools Course Pages
  7. Major Alumni Relations

Melissa focused her presentation on the results from the Peer Advising and Department Structure documents.  In terms of the former, a main point was student desire for peer advising both because of the greater advising options it entailed, as well as more specifically the greater accessibility (quantitatively and qualitatively) in advising it offered.  As regards Department Structure, Student Government found a similar preference for options in terms of types and modes of advising, i.e., faculty, staff, and peer advisors, and appointments, walk-ins, and email.  They also found that students preferred a more formal structure and one that facilitated transparency in terms of whom they should see for which issues.  (See the full documents for more detail).  

Questions: During the open Q/A and discussion, topics fell into the following categories:

  • Peer Advising:
    • Structure: What system works best?  There is no single best system or structure for peer advising.  This should be determined through an assessment of student demand/preference and departmental advising philosophy and resources.  (See also Peer Advising Brown Bag Summary below.)
    • Resources: Some departments pay their peer advisors and/or give them course credit, e.g., Psych and SWC.  For departments that do not have the resources for this, the possibility of sharing resources (e.g., joint training) or of developing a UC peer advising course was suggested.  There are also departments in which peer advisors work on a voluntary basis.
    • Topics: Student Government found that students would use peer advising predominantly for quick questions about classes or requirements and would see staff or faculty advisors for more in depth discussions and longer-range planning. 
  • Department Structure:  
    • What kind: As with peer advising, given the range of sizes and structures of departments, there is no one size fits all for advising structure, but as noted above, students did express a preference for a more rather than less formal structure.   
    • Departmental Excellence Award: Student Government has recently resuscitated the Departmental Excellence Award, which was given to the German Department this past Fall 2011.  Award selection is based on student nominations and responses to a Student Government administered department survey.  Nominated departments may have access to their survey results.
    • Assessment: If departments wish to assess their advising program, Student Government has developed a survey template in Qualtrics, which departments can modify and administer.  Contact Melissa Burns ( if interested.  There may be a forthcoming professional development or training workshop on this topic.
  • Resources:  


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