Ins and outs of advising

In the second and final part of a series, The Temple News examines the working parts of advising.

In the second and final part of a series, The Temple News examines the working parts of advising.

Jarvis Bailey said he used to “bug” his adviser “twice a day” when he attended Temple from 2003 to 2006.

“But you know what?” said Bailey, now an academic adviser for the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. “I developed an academic relationship with her, and that’s what students are doing with [Director of Undergraduate Affairs] Janet [Distel] and me.

“The good thing about being in a smaller school is we have the opportunity to have more of an intimate relationship with [students] by knowing their dislikes and their concerns. We can use that information to know how to best advise them.”

But for 2009 Temple alumna Ambra Hyman, transferring from Capital Community College in Hartford, Conn., “was very overwhelming,” and she said her adviser didn’t help.
“I had trouble with my classes at first,” said Hyman, who was halfway through the pre-pharmacy track when she transferred. “When I asked my adviser at [the College of Science and Technology] what to do, they were really negative and just told me to withdraw. I didn’t want to, but no one was helping me find another way.”

Hyman switched from the pre-pharmacy track and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in African-American studies. With the exception of her graduation review, she never attended advising at the College of Liberal Arts after her negative experience at CST.

She is now a counselor at a rehabilitation shelter in Philadelphia. Still, Hyman said she knows the “money would have come in a lot faster” and wonders how life would be different if she had stuck with pharmacy.

“It would have been helpful if the advisers had more knowledge on the subject,” Hyman said. “It’s hard to study subjects that difficult without any support.”

The School of Engineering and Architecture has two full-time advisers for 1,000 students, but Director of Advising Margarita Marengo and Academic Adviser Matthew Badura only directly advise freshmen and sophomores. After that, passing students see faculty advisers under contract at the College of Engineering, who take on the role of helping students register for classes in order to secure the college’s accreditation. While upperclassmen still visit Marengo and Badura to check in, faculty advisers are specific to students’ specialties within engineering.

Faculty advisers – who almost all work or have worked in their respective fields – are vastly different than academic advisers, who do not specialize in particular majors. As of three years ago, all academic advisers must have a master’s degree as a minimum job requirement. Typically, advisers’ degrees are in education, counseling or psychology.

“It’s unrealistic to think every advising office could have advisers fluent in each discipline,” Badura said, “but having faculty advisers gets us as close to that as [possible].”
“In any program leading up to any professions, students ought to go talk to their teachers,” said Richard Cohen, faculty adviser and chair of the mechanical engineering program.

“[Faculty] can help them see where [students] are going with their career and what jobs are available in their field,” he said, adding that a lot of professors, no matter their major affiliation, are still practicing members of their respective professions.

Cohen previously worked at Drexel University, where, like numerous schools and colleges at Temple, a faculty member can offer advice but has no registration power.
At the Boyer College of Music and Dance, Director of Advising Maguerite Jackson holds the singular “adviser” title. There are 485 undergraduates and nine faculty advisers assigned to students in the school by major. The School of Communications and Theater operates similarly. Jackson keeps tabs on students’ progress, but she emphasized the importance of professors’ outlooks on students’ chosen professions.

“A student [at Boyer] is always in contact with their teachers,” said Jackson, who can hear instrumental and vocal lessons from her office in Presser Hall. “The band teacher sees some [students] three times a week. It provides additional support, and [faculty members] serve as a good resource of information.”

The Fox School of Business does not have specifically assigned faculty advisers, but each department has a chair who can answer questions regarding job descriptions and career paths available in each field, said Helen Robinson, director of advising at Fox.

“I’m a firm believer that the more information you have, the better kinds of decisions you’re going to make,” she said. “The adviser can help them understand that there are other parts to an education. An adviser is there to help them talk things out and [tell students] where they can go for more answers, because advisers do not have all the answers.”

Jasmine Hines, a junior speech therapy major with “a ton of credits,” hasn’t had any problems with advising but said she has seen her friends “go through a lot.”
“Most of them are in larger schools like CLA or CST,” Hines, a student in the smaller College of Health Professions, said. “But I really like my advisers. They want me to update them on what I’m doing.”

Though CHP boasts a sizeable number of undergraduates – 3,483 – some units within the college have specific advisers rather than an overarching program for all majors.
“I would like to think that if two students were walking across the campus from different colleges, anything one of those students could do, like go online and book an appointment, I’d like to think the other could do the same,” Peter Jones, senior vice provost for undergraduate studies, said.

To alleviate pressure on advisers dealing with students who require more stringent scheduling, Jones, who assumed his position in 2004, established advising centers specific to student athletes and the pre-health advising unit for students working toward medical school.

In addition, the Honors College, which has 1,419 undergraduates, has its own set of advisers. The Division of Undeclared Students at the Academic Resource Center advises undeclared and continued education students.

But for larger schools and colleges within an already-expansive state-related institution, it’s easy for students to get lost in the shuffle, especially if they can’t put anything to an adviser’s name but an electronic signature.

When Robinson meets students and they learn her name, she said with a laugh, they often respond, “‘Oh, you’re the one that’s sending me all those e-mails.’”

Communication lines between students and advisers are often by way of the Web, and since not all advising departments have mandatory advising, directors and advisers rely heavily on electronic correspondence.

And though Distel said she thinks advisers “need to use technology because that’s what students expect,” she is careful not to abuse the resource.

“I know some students don’t really believe this,” Distel said, “but I’m very careful about the number of e-mails that go out. If you see my name in your inbox every day, you’re going to ignore me, and I don’t want to be ignored, so I try to limit it to once a week.”

Between advising notices, Temple Today and Career Center e-mails, senior philosophy major Matthew Contakes said he “skipped over a lot” in his inbox until he missed the deadline to drop a class last semester.

“I did get the e-mail,” Contakes said. “But with everything else going on, I sort of forgot.”

“I attend to the advising e-mails now more than I did before,” he added with a smile.

However, as evidenced by STHM, where there are approximately 663 undergraduates, the school’s size and number of advisers affect the accessibility of certain communication lines between students and advisers.

College of Engineering students receive Marengo’s and Badura’s direct phone lines. Their offices are accessible, and students often check in with Marengo, even after they become upperclassmen and mostly work with faculty advisers.

“It does come down a lot to staffing,” said Badura, who worked at CLA before moving to the College of Engineering to round out the one-woman team led by Marengo. The dean’s office hired another adviser after seeing increasingly longer lines pouring out of the advising office’s small space and a growing number of students.

“We have enough people to see our students comfortably, so we can give out our direct numbers,” Badura added, “but some places don’t because if they have their phone ringing and students coming in, they wouldn’t be able to see a student for five minutes without the phone ringing 10 times.”

Jackson has worked as an adviser for approximately 23 years and worked in large- and small-capacity advising offices. She spent 16 years advising at Fox, which she said does “a tremendous job serving the number of students they have.”

During busier hours at certain schools or colleges, wait time can be lengthy, and students in a time squeeze, who often assume e-mailing their adviser is more efficient, should reconsider.

“It’s easier if the students just come in,” Nita Guzman, the associate director and senior adviser at the College of Education, said. Like more prescribed majors, education certification requirements change often. Currently, one major can have as many as three tracks.

“Don’t be a stranger,” Guzman added. “You go to the doctor regularly. You get your flu shots regularly. Chances are you may have missed something if you don’t come in to see us regularly.”

Ashley Nguyen can be reached at

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