Sitting Down with AU's Advising Staff

Rana Attia


This fall, American University will implement a new advising program for freshman, one that should alleviate the stress of having many students and limited advising appointments.

Every school within AU has its own method for advising. Students go to their advisers for different reasons, whether to declare a major or a minor or to get input on what courses to take each semester. But due to the constant change of advisers on campus and a shortage of appointments, students often go without seeing their advisers for the support they need. 

Jayme Schlenker, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences said, “I don’t really talk to advising because I don’t really know how to talk to them and also I did not feel like talking to strangers who rotate in and out every year.”

The College of Arts and Sciences recently went through a turnover period where several advisers left AU due to personal reasons. Now that the advisers for future semesters have been solidified, students are more apt to visit their assigned advisers, according to Emily Jones-Green, director of undergraduate advising, retention and recruitment for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I think our method that we use is kind of a hybrid of appreciative advising of understanding where the student is developmentally... that really helps us to figure out what conversation we are having with them,” said Jones-Green. Since appointments with advisers are usually about deciding schedules and making four-year plans, a center for freshman advising will be introduced on American’s campus this fall. The center for first-year advising will be implemented to help alleviate the problem of the high ratio of students to advisers. By creating a separate advising center for freshman, advisers will be able to interact more with the upperclassmen.  

This will also give freshman the chance to have more personalized interactions with their advisers. “Those advisers will not only be the freshmen advisers but they will also be teaching them their AUx1 course and it’s great because not only will these students have an adviser but they would get to see them once a week in class,” explained Jones-Green. 

In addition, advisers are attempting new methods to make their resources more easily accessible to all students. 

“We’re always looking to see what we can do better and I think the first-year model is something that came from looking at case load and what students are needing... and meeting with students to see where they are,” Jones-Green said. She went on to elaborate: "for first-year students it is a big transition from high school to college, so having that first-year adviser will really help smooth that transition.”  

Although new aspects are being implemented into American’s advising system, freshmen would still like to receive a more hands-on approach. 

Caroline Giovanie, a freshman in the School of Communication confirmed this stating, “I think advising at AU is interesting ... It was less helpful than I thought it would be. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more used to directed advising from high school, but my SOC adviser definitely gives me all the control. This is good, but sometimes I do wish that they would give more direction when I ask for it.”  

Advisers do not know what every individual student needs, so they try to create outlets to make the transition from high school to college easier overall.  

Justin Bernstine, assistant dean for undergraduate academic services in the School of Communication, said, “I can say with my previous experience with academic advising that it is for sure hands-on because majors and minors at AU are pretty regimented. Students get a lot of support from our academic advisers. However, I have not been in high school in a very long time.”  

Advisers also encourage students to tell them what they want to see in order for their appointments to be more constructive.   

John Delaney, dean of Kogod School of Business, said, “We started a survey where we’re randomly surveying students for feedback on different issues. One of the issues is advising. We do that in part because we are trying to get information that might help us design a stronger approach.”  

Aside from the new systems, advisers attend an annual conference hosted by the National Academic Advising Association, which helps them brainstorm new ideas to improve advising methods. “Almost all advisers from AU went to the one day conference here on campus. There were different sessions, such as working with transfer students,” said Jones-Green.  

One thing that students can do to ensure they get the most out of their appointment is prepare for it. Students who manage to do so ahead of time find it helpful in the long run.   

Arushi Gupta, a freshman in the School of Communication, said, “I think they’re amazing. … I have changed my majors and minors a total of six times and each time they have been supportive and helpful in terms of scheduling.”