New system pilots academic advising through Freshman Seminars
Six of the 48 classes offered through the Freshman Seminar Program have been selected to participate in the program in which freshman seminar professors also serve as academic advisers for their students.
Deputy Dean of the College Clayton Marsh ’85 said the idea for the pilot emerged during discussions with Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin while Marsh was interviewing for his current position. After surveying freshmen and sophomores last year about their experiences with the advising system, Senior Associate Dean of the College Claire Fowler and her colleagues implemented a series of pilot programs aimed at improving the system for first- and second-year students.
“We were trying to think about how students use the advising system and how they understand the role of advising,” Fowler said.
The results of the survey indicated that while most students liked their advisers personally, they often find it difficult to form close relationships with them since they meet only once or twice a term to choose courses.
“Those moments of advising may be very good, but often you sort of need advice as you go along,” Fowler said.
The program aims to optimize first-year advising by allowing students to interact with their advising groups on a weekly basis.
“Freshman seminars have for so many years provided incoming students with a very natural opportunity to form strong, lasting relationships with faculty members,” Marsh said. “It was worth thinking about how the program might be used as a platform for developing stronger advising relationships that have a basis in a common academic experience.”
Classics professor Joshua Katz, a faculty adviser and fellow at Forbes College who is teaching FRS 123: Wordplay: A Wry Plod from Babel to Scrabble, is one of six faculty fellows in the program. Katz, who is also a faculty columnist for The Daily Princetonian and has served as an academic adviser for the majority of the almost 15 years he has been at the University, said he gets to know his advisees better with the new system.
“One doesn’t usually get to know one’s advisees that well — sometimes I have advisees I’ve gotten to know very well, but that’s a pretty loose arrangement,” Katz said. “Whereas freshman seminars are bonding experiences, so I tend to know students in my freshman seminars very well.”
In addition to Katz’s course, five other freshman seminars are involved in the program: Brigid Doherty’s FRS 153: Things Come to Life; Bruno Carvalho’s FRS 137: Soccer and Latin America: Politics, History, Popular Culture; Wendy Heller’s FRS 103: Listening at the Museum: A History of Music Through the Visual Arts; Margaret Beissinger’s FRS 167: Narratives of Identity in the Other Europe: Reading Culture in the Balkans; and Michael Litchman’s FRS 161: When Adolescence Goes Wrong: What They Didn’t Tell You.
Maha Chaudhry ’16 is currently enrolled in FRS 103: Listening at the Museum, taught by Heller. Chaudhry said the new system fosters more intimate relationships between the students and their advisers.
“You really get to know your adviser, since you’re spending so much time with them weekly, and they really get a feel for your personality and what you can handle academically and socially,” she said.
Nevertheless, Chaudhry said one disadvantage to the system is that she is paired with an academic adviser in a department unrelated to her major. Chaudhry is a prospective molecular biology concentrator, while Heller teaches music.
“Most people pick their freshman seminars because it’s outside of what they’re studying,” she said. “So, in terms of academic relations, it’s kind of off.”
Due to specific curricula requirements, students in the B.S.E. program are assigned academic advisers outside of their freshman seminars. While Marsh said the arrangement is not ideal, it is important for B.S.E. candidates to receive specialized guidance from an engineering professor.
“Freshman advising is all about how to handle and actually make the most of the intellectual life at Princeton,” Fowler said, adding that while choosing a concentration may be a part of advising, it is not an immediate concern for freshmen. The ultimate goal of academic advising, according to Fowler, is to provide freshmen with a close-knit “academic community” they can turn to during their first year at school.
So far, no decisions have been made about the future of the program. Fowler said she hopes to survey students again in the upcoming months and receive feedback from participating faculty to evaluate the program’s success.