Advising, Resources Abound at Wellesley

Beverly J. Luther is a first-year at Wellesley College. She is president of her class and says that she feels involved in the college community. And she says that all of her professors know her well.

Beverly's twin sister, Betty C. Luther '03, is a first-year at Harvard, but is not as confident as her sister about the resources available to her. While she thinks that professors certainly make themselves available to students, it might require extra effort to talk to them. At Harvard, she says, students need to take the initiative.

And while Harvard's active extra-curricular scene is overflowing with culture and student organizations, the talents of fellow classmates may prevent some students from getting involved, Betty says.

Wellesley is a relatively small, female, liberal arts college. Harvard is a large research university. It is no surprise that the two elite schools offer students a very different bang for their buck.

While Harvard has more physical resources--libraries, museums and research facilities--to offer, students who have attended both colleges say there are tradeoffs that come with Harvard's immensity.

Junior Victoria G. Fox, a Wellesley student spending a semester at Harvard, says that Harvard has all the information that students could ever need--the difficulty is in putting that information to use.

"There really is an incredible amount of physical resources at Harvard, but it's a bit frustrating to try and find the correct information," Fox says. "At Wellesley, the resources available are more accessible."

Julia B. Silvis '02 agrees. Silvis transferred to Harvard after spending her first year at Wellesley.

"I don't suppose it is possible to beat the library resources of Harvard...but personal resources [at Wellesley] seem to be used more by students," Silvis said.

The advantages of a small college community are apparent in Wellesley's social scene, says Mary Ann Hill, Wellesley's director of public information.

A group of students called the Schneider Board of Governors (SBOG)--named after the Schneider College Center plans campus-wide events--SBOG, which gets money from student government, plans weekly events, such as concerts and dances.

The school also has larger events such as "Spring Weekend", "Fallfest" and "Lake Day," which are carnival-type outdoors events, similar to Harvard's Springfest. But Wellesley has three, that each last several days, as opposed to Harvard's once-a-year celebration.

The difference is that SBOG plans at least three large events of this sort, spanning across several days, in addition to weekly events. All of the events, including concerts, formals, and informal dances, are free of charge to the students.

Misty B. Hewitt, a junior at Wellesley and chair of SBOG, says the weekly activities, though not necessarily attended by all, certainly contribute to the school's tight community.

"The events really do build community and allow people to meet one another," says Hewitt, whose official title is director of on-campus affairs. "The larger events appeal to all groups of people and offer something for everyone."

Wellesley students also brag about their advising system--which includes academic, residential, career, and even psychological counseling. When students are admitted to the college they choose an academic adviser, who is a faculty member. Each advisor has no more than three first-year students, according to Craig N. Murphy, chair of Wellesly's political science department.

In addition to individual advisers, each class of about 580 students works with a first-year dean. The class is assigned another dean for its remaining three years.

Once students declare a major during the second semester of their sophomore year, they are assigned a departmental adviser.

Murphy says each of the department's 15 faculty members work with about 10 government majors. The advisors help student choose what courses to take, find internships, and eventually offer career planning advice.

With proctors or graduate students to turn to first, Harvard students can avoid speaking to faculty members for a long time, undergraduates say.

At Wellesley, there are no TFs--all classes are taught by professors. Harvard reports that none of its classes are taught by TFs, but many students spend the majority of their time in sections led by graduate students.

In addition to departmental tutoring, Wellesley has a Learning and Teaching Center that holds weekly office hours for each subject. Undergraduates volunteer their time there to help others with their work.

According to Kristen E. Looney, a Wellesley junior, many students take advantage of this opportunity--and everybody at least knows that it is available. Looney, who transferred from Emory University, another large research university, found herself closer to these resources at Wellesley than at Emory.

"With so much academic and residential and even psychological support, I feel like there are more resources for me, personally," Looney said. "At least ones that people told me about."