Economics and Government Advising Revised

Reforms to the advising structures in the two largest undergraduate concentrations—Economics and Government—have been launched this fall, with the introduction of a dedicated staff concentration adviser in economics and the creation of a Peer Concentration Counseling (PCC) program in government. These changes will impact roughly one in four Harvard students.

The advising reforms reflect divergent mentalities about restructuring the advising systems within the two concentrations, both of which have been plagued by a reputation for poor advising in the past.

While the Economics department continues to centralize its advising resources within the Littauer building, the Government department has chosen to divide advising responsibilities both to House tutors and to upperclassmen Government concentrators.

Yet advisers within both departments say that their goals are the same—to make a large department and a large pool of concentrators feel like a more tight-knit community.

“I know there is a perception that government students can get lost in the shuffle,” said Greg A. DiBella ’12, one of the 15 PCCs hired by the Government department for this semester.

DiBella said he has spoken to roughly eight students in person and e-mailed with another five about questions regarding course selection and choosing a concentration.

“I think the PCCs are probably a good thing because if students stumble across the [PCC website], they might be more likely to email the students than teachers or official advisers,” DiBella said.

He also stressed that the PCCs serve in a more informal capacity, as they are not assigned official advisees and are meant more “to be a source of additional information for the kids.”

According to Kiran Gajwani, the new staff Economics department concentration adviser, changes in economics advising similarly serve to dispel the sense that the department is “too impersonal.”

But administrators within the Economics Department said they also plan to expand the staff concentration advising program—rather than foster a greater number of informal advising relationships—in order to help the department seem more navigable.

Department Chair of Economics John Y. Campbell said that he hopes to expand the staff concentration adviser program to include two more advisers like Gajwani—perhaps to be supported by a group of graduate students—in the coming years.

Gajwani, who will personally advise students in Kirkland, Lowell, Winthrop, and the Quad Houses, said that the program has already garnered positive responses among economics concentrators.

“Things are in the early stages, but our hope is to build a feeling of community within the Economics department,” Gajwani said.

“Already students have told us that they notice the increased communication with their advisers—whereas before they mainly interacted with their advisers when they needed their study cards signed,” she added.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Evan T.R. Rosenman can be reached at erosenm@fas.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: September 15, 2010

An earlier version of the Sept. 15 news article "Economics and Government Advising Revised" incorrectly listed the middle initial of a Peer Concentration Counselor. His correct full name is Greg A. DiBella '12.

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