Students To Advise First-Years On Majors

This spring, upperclass students will help advise first-years as they pick their concentrations, thanks to a measure approved by the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) yesterday.

The plan calls for the head tutors within each of the College’s academic departments to compile lists of upperclass students who represent a wide spectrum of academic, extracurricular and career interests. The lists, which will be available on-line, will allow first-years to look for advisers with similar backgrounds and goals.

The new supplement to existing advising structures will emulate a successful program that has been conducted in some of the smaller departments at the College, according to one of the proposal’s authors, Christopher M. Hill ’05.

“Choosing a concentration is one of the most important decisions an undergraduate makes,” Hill said. “This plan is supposed to be a means by which first-years can take advantage of Harvard’s most valuable resource—its students.”

The upperclass students who volunteer to participate will not be doing “actual advising,” said CUE member Rohit Chopra ’04. Instead, they will be “just talking about their own experiences.”

“The Office of Undergraduate Education has never sponsored anything like this,” he said.

Hill, an Undergraduate Council representative, came up with the idea of peer advising for concentration choices last year. CUE considered a form of the proposal last spring, Chopra said, but the initial plan met with concerns from the committee—concerns that have since been ironed out.

Yesterday’s plan, authored by Hill, Chopra and CUE member Omolola Kassim ’04, encountered little criticism.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Wolcowitz said he had received “very positive” feedback from the head tutors of humanities departments, with whom he recently shared the proposal.

“There were no objections, and we said we’d be coming to them very soon with requests for names,” Wolcowitz said.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Benedict H. Gross ’71 said the lists would “be in place by the beginning of second semester.”

The student authors say they were pleasantly surprised by the reception of the revised proposal.

“We dealt with a lot of the philosophical problems that arose and I was very pleased by the response,” Hill said.

Chopra said he hoped that websites with the listings might eventually include other useful information for potential concentrators, such as links to departmental websites and plans of study.

CUE also discussed the status of the newly created Office of International Programs, which handles study abroad.

The office, in what Gross called its “start-up year,” is not yet fully staffed.

To that end, the Office of Undergraduate Education is in the process of soliciting applicants for a director position and will start reviewing the applications it has already received next week, Wolcowitz said.

—Staff writer Divya A. Mani can be reached at mani@fas.harvard.edu.