Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A Planning Program for Worcester Polytechnic Institute: The Future of Two Towers - Part Four: A Plan


A. Introduction

The academic program proposed by the Planning Committee places major responsibility for the student's development upon himself. Hence, the advisory program must avoid either control of the student by making all important decisions for him or abdication of all responsibility for his maturation. Both the student and his advisor will have certain responsibilities. In general, these will be complementary and non-conflicting. If occasional intransigence or personality conflict should occur, procedures for bringing a third party into the discussion must be devised.

Good advising requires an active interest by the advisor in each of his advisees. Much of this interest will be dulled if the advisor becomes involved in endless paperwork and countless structured meetings. Both he and his students need advisory procedures flexible enough to allow for individual differences but demanding enough to prevent degeneration into a perfunctory exercise. The demands made on the advisor, nevertheless, will be fairly substantial. The assignment of a faculty member to the role of advisor should be based upon his interest in students, the diversity and depth of his knowledge, his commitment to the academic program, and a thorough consideration of his potential as a contributor to other parts of the program, i.e., project supervisor, lecturer, or director of independent study. This last consideration is especially important; good advising is time-consuming and must be recognized as an integral part of the teaching assignment.

The role of the students in the advisory process must also be recognized. It is inevitable that students will seek the advice of their peers in academic as well as other matters. While there is danger in student evaluation of courses and faculty, proper use of this often valid information should be incorporated into the advisory procedure.

B. Organizational Structure for the Advisory Program

On the basis of the foregoing statements, it is possible to devise an organizational structure for the advisory program. (See XII, THE ORGANIZATIONAL CONCEPTS, and the CONSTITUTION OF THE WPI FACULTY.)

1. Advisor. The advisor is appointed by the Dean of Academic Resources, after consultation with the Dean of Program Operations and the various faculty group chairmen.

It is the responsibility of each advisor to assist his advisees in defining their educational goals, developing with them study programs directed toward achieving those goals, and guiding them toward both intellectual and social maturity. The advisor must gain an understanding of each of his advisees as rapidly as possible, not only to be able to make an initial determination of the student's probable academic program, but also to be sensitive to alterations in the advisee's attitudes and interests. The advisee must be free to choose his own program; the advisor must be certain, however, that the student is fully aware of the available academic alternatives. Moreover, the advisor must inform the Dean of Program Operations (through the Council of Advisors) of the special interests of each advisee, so that appropriate I _ can be made available as needed.

The advisor works with his advisees in their preparation for the comprehensive examinations and ultimately certifies that they are ready for these examinations. Similarly, he will assist the students in their preparation for sufficiency examinations or will arrange for the proper evaluation of two Units of work instead. Occasionally, it may be necessary for the advisor to recommend to the Council of Advisors that a student withdraw from the College. Generally, he will have the much more pleasant task of recommending to the Council each of his advisees for graduation.

2. Council of Advisors. The Council consists of the Registrar as executive officer, a staff member from each of the offices of the Deans of Academic Resources and Program Operations, and six advisors. The last would be elected by all the advisors for three-year terms, two being elected each year. An elected member may not succeed himself.

This group has the responsibility for the overall operation of the advisory system. In fulfillment of its responsibilities it would be supported by the Registrar's office, the Faculty Curriculum Committee, and Committee on Academic Policy. The Council must arrange for the distribution of an "academic catalog" to all advisors, direct orientation seminars for new advisors, approve uniform standards for the preparation of student dossiers, and supply relevant information to the Faculty Curriculum Committee, the Dean of Program Operations, and the Committee on Academic Policy. It must certify, upon recommendation of the advisor, the eligibility of each student for graduation. Finally, it should serve as a board of appeals to whom individual advisors and advisees might turn in the event of difficulty.

3. Student. The student must recognize his obligation to grow intellectually and socially, and he must produce enough evidence of accomplishment to warrant consideration for a degree. He must be willing to make decisions, but only after examination of the alternatives; and, should his decisions prove unwise, he must be willing to reassess his plans.

4. Registrar. As indicated above, the Registrar is the executive officer of the Council of Advisors. The Registrar's office maintains student records, disseminates information relative to the academic program, and prepares or revises all record forms for internal and external use. The office must also coordinate the utilization of secretarial and clerical assistants by the advisors.

5. Faculty and Project Supervisors. The faculty and all others teaching students, whether on or off the campus, should submit sufficient qualitative information regarding each student's performance to assist the advisor in determining the student's progress. The advisor would file this information for use when the advisee seeks employment or entrance to graduate school. (See example of possible transcript in V, D.)

6. Examiners. The faculty groups preparing examinations have two roles to play, the second of which is important to the advisory program. For, in addition to designing either comprehensive or sufficiency examinations, they should submit to the advisor a written analysis of each student's performance on those examinations.

C. Possible Time Allocation for Faculty Advisors.

Table I. Summary of Advisory Duties of each Advisor

Term C. Attendance at orientation seminar for new advisors.
Term D. Meetings with his new upperclass advisees and their former advisor for review and determination of academic program of the following year.
Note: This procedure provides for the phase-out of faculty who retire, go on sabbatical leave, or withdraw from the advisory role.
Pre-term A. Orientation week; meetings with new advisees. Commencement of open-ended seminar with new advisees on a topic of mutual interest. Initial determination of advisees' academic programs.
Term A. Consultations with all advisees, either individually or in groups, whenever necessary.
Term B. Continued consultations with advisees. Special meetings with those advisees intending to apply for either Comprehensive or Sufficiency Examinations during the academic year Intersession. Orientation meetings with advisees for intersession.
Term C. Similar to Term B.
Term D. Individual consultations to determine academic program for the following year of each advisee who will return to the campus. Review of total program of potential degree candidates and recommendation of degree eligibility to the Council of Advisors.
Post-term D. General review of the academic program by all advisors. Discussion of IS/P needs for the following year and changes in Study and other offerings. Election of new members to the Council of Advisors.

Regardless of the advisor's advance preparation or his previous experience, he will need the orientation week before Term A to become acquainted with his new advisees. The subcommittee on Advising Procedures has made the excellent suggestion that an informal seminar covering some topic of mutual interest to both the advisor and his students serve as the vehicle to bring about a closer relationship. The seminar should be neither trivial nor excessively recondite; the topic might be chosen from a list prepared by the advisor or might result from an idea expressed during a meeting early in the orientation week. It seems advisable that the assignment of advisee to advisor be made, at least partially, on an indication of some area of mutual interest. Since students' career interests are subject to frequent revision, the area of mutual interest should not necessarily be career oriented.

The advisor may have made a tentative determination of his advisees' probable needs prior to their arrival on campus, but it must be emphasized that it is the student who will make the final selection. The advisor must be prepared to spend extra time with first-year students; as the student progresses, the need for frequent consultation should diminish. In every case, however, the advisor should encourage the student to take a long-range view of his education. Above all registration for succeeding terms need not be concentrated affairs but may evolve naturally out of a continuing dialog between advisor and advisee.

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Last modified: Fri Mar 5 15:28:11 EST 1999