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GSAS Launches Effort to Reform Advising

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences launched an advising initiative last week and has invited students to share their experiences with advising.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences launched an advising initiative last week and has invited students to share their experiences with advising. By Jenny M. Lu
By Luke A. Williams, Crimson Staff Writer

Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Emma Dench announced the launch of a school-wide Advising Project in a Nov. 26 email to GSAS students.

The Advising Project, a two-year effort to gather data on and reform advising for GSAS students, will focus on collecting feedback from individuals involved in the advising process, including students, faculty, alumni, and administrators.

“I want to gather feedback from everyone whose experience touches advising,” Dench wrote in the email.

After soliciting responses over the course of the next year, GSAS administrators will begin using the collected data to determine how to “disseminate the lessons learned” and better allocate advising resources.

Dench's announcement comes months after the January release of the most recent GSAS advising-related survey, first distributed in fall 2018. In that survey, 92 percent of GSAS students reported that they were satisfied with their overall advising experience.

The survey also asked students more specific questions about their advising experiences. Ninety percent of students reported that their advisors help them achieve a “satisfying work-life balance"; 76 percent of students said they have had either “excellent” or “good” professional development opportunities.

Dench called the results "troubling" in last Tuesday’s announcement.

“While a majority of students seem satisfied with their advising, a troubling — and consistent — number do not,” she wrote.

After reviewing the data and researching other institutions’ advising practices, Dench said she decided that she would “need to investigate more deeply” and “engage with individuals beyond those in traditional advisee-advisor roles.”

“What does effective advising look like? What gets in the way of effective advising and how can we make it the norm?” she wrote. “Is advising more expansive than is traditionally understood?”

Dench said she believes “effective” advising helps students build meaningful professional and personal relationships. She added that “negative” advising can lead to a “lack of productivity,” hinder students' ability to earn their degree, and adversely impact their mental health.

Dench concluded her email by distributing a link where GSAS students can anonymously share stories with the Advising Project’s leaders. Submitted stories and additional feedback opportunities will inform the project’s direction in the coming months, she wrote.

“Advising is a complicated and individual process,” she wrote. “But it is one that should be effective regardless of discipline or year of study.”

—Staff Writer Luke A. Williams can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @LukeAWilliams22.

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