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First Year of Studies undergoes changes, ceases to be its own college

| Friday, August 23, 2019

The semester introduces a series of organizational changes to academic advising. Perhaps most notably, the First Year of Studies — now dubbed First Year Advising — is no longer its own college. 

The name change follows a number of core curriculum changes ushered in by the University’s most recent core curriculum review. Among these was the removal of first year math and science requirements to increase schedule flexibility; now students must only take these classes by graduation.

With only the University Seminar and Moreau First Year Experience required under first year curriculum, setting apart first year programming as an independent college no longer seemed necessary, physics professor Micheal Hildreth, who co-chaired the Core Curriculum Review Committee, said. Incoming first years now enroll in the college of their intended study.

“There was really not a first year curriculum anymore,” he said. “And so having a college to administer no curriculum just doesn’t really make any sense.”

The review also brought forth significant structural changes to University advising. While academic resources for first year students, such as the Learning Resource Center and Program for Academic Excellence, will remain in Coleman-Morse Hall, first year advisers will now be housed in their respective academic colleges. 

This reorganization was done in an effort to strengthen ties between first year and college advisers. This, in turn, will give first years access to more major-specific academic guidance and smooth their transition into sophomore year, assistant provost for academic advising Elly Brenner said.

“The directors of undergraduate studies will now be down the hall. So, if I had a student really interested in psychology, I’m more closely aligned with the director of undergraduate studies for psychology,” she said. “So, as an adviser, I could ask more specific questions or think of things through a little bit of a different lens.”

The push for more cohesion among academic advisers was led by the Core Curriculum Review Committee’s Academic Advising Focus Group, which Hildreth also chaired. The focus group met a total of six times, with student representatives from STEM Ambassadors and the First Year of Studies Peer Advisers attending two of the meetings.

The focus group was primarily tasked with evaluating academic advising and benchmarking University practices with peer institutions. Student feedback on advising was gathered by surveying first years and exiting business and engineering students. The focus group also held small student discussions, meeting with about 30 undergraduates in total.

In their 2015 report, the Academic Advising Focus Group also recommended the University establish new advising standards to ensure quality advising across all academic departments. 

“Expectations concerning advising practices need to be established and means of assessing advising need to be put into place for both professional and departmental advisers to ensure all students are receiving good, if not excellent, advising during the entirety of their time at the University,” their 2015 report reads.

Currently, advisers have widely varying levels of professional training, Hildreth said.

“There’s a mixture right now of professional faculty who do advising primarily, as well as some teaching,” he said. “And there are some departments who just have random faculty members that might be students — which can be great, or not. And those people do not have any formal training with advisers.”

Hildreth said the new standards and other efforts to strengthen advising are still in their conceptual stages.

“We’re still in this transition phase,” he said. “So as people start to look at how the advising is going and how to improve it, I hope that there will be more resources made available to advisers, and some training, just to help them understand what their role should be and how to execute. It’s definitely been piecemeal.”

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Mary is a sophomore from St. Louis living in Howard Hall. If her journalism career doesn't work out, her Plan B is to start a petting zoo.

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