Office of the Dean rebrands to improve quality of academic advising

The Office of the Dean has been renamed the Academic Advising Office. The office will focus on advising and registering Geneseo students and accommodating students with disabilities. Celia Easton will serve as the dean of academic planning and advising. Assistant Provost for Curriculum and Assessment Savi Iyer has assumed the office’s former responsibilities that dealt with policy, curriculum and assessment, according to Easton.

One of the primary functions of the Academic Advising Office will be to keep students on track to graduate, Easton said.

“What we’ve kept downstairs in Erwin 106 are face-to-face kinds of things for students: Are you registering for classes? Are you getting all of your work done to finish your degree?” she said. “The degree audits are here and we work with students who are struggling a little bit to help them with academic planning.”

The Academic Advising Office will also work with the Office of Disability Services in providing assistance for students with disabilities, Easton said. In addition, the Academic Advising Office will also work with the Office of New Student Programs.

Easton explained that the responsibilities of the Office of the Dean were broken down to improve the quality of academic advising.

Geneseo students have perceived academic advising negatively in the past, according to Director of the Office of Institutional Research Julie Meyer Rao. Rao explained that the results of the 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement—administered to freshman and seniors—showed that students rate Geneseo’s academic advising lower than the national average.

“There were questions like ‘Has your adviser informed you of important deadlines, helped you understand rules and policies, made you aware of academic support options, helped you when you had academic difficulties?’ and on all of those items Geneseo’s average score was significantly lower than that for the public master’s colleges, which was our comparison group for this portion of the survey,” Rao said.

Easton hopes to enhance academic advising by improving communication between students and faculty. She added that the office may begin to use peer advisers, as well.

“We’re hoping to tap into student leaders to do some better trained academic advising,” she said. “Student leaders are always stepping up and helping students learn how to get on KnightWeb and do registration and things like that. But I think that there’s more we could tap into there.”

The Academic Advising Office will also look into alleviating students’ concerns about the general academic advisers that undeclared students are given.

“One of the things I think students would like to see is something that’s a little bit better focused for students who haven’t chosen a major yet,” Easton said. “The advisers that they get assigned to might be able to help them with general education and things like that, but they aren’t really equipped to help [students] think through what different majors would be.”

In addition, Easton will be conducting a listening tour to gain feedback from the Geneseo campus community. She has attended four department meetings and will meet with the Academic Affairs Committee of the Student Association and the Inter-Residence Council in October, as well as the Student Association in November. She added that she is also willing to receive feedback from other student groups.

Easton said faculty members have addressed their concerns in regard to the number of students they are advising and the lack of communication between advisers and students.

“Faculty are wishing to have more meaningful conversations with students, but it’s hard when all you’re doing is trying to put a schedule together last minute,” she said. “So I think we’re going to help faculty find some ways to communicate with students about preparing for an advising appointment earlier and help students understand what they can expect of a faculty adviser.”

The Associate Dean for New Student Advisement Peter Corrigan said that he hopes that the quality of advisement improves with the renaming and reorganization of the Academic Advising Office.

“The way we were organized before, we weren’t able to do any long-range planning. We were so busy dealing with the day-to-day that we didn’t really have the opportunity to do any planning,” he said. “I think now with Dr. Easton we’re doing more planning, and I look forward to doing more of it still. We were so transactional before, and now I think that there’s a greater opportunity for us to do something transformational.”