Need Advisement? Consult the Course Booklet! Students Find Fault in Academic Advising at FCLC

Professors Are Supposedly Trained to Advise, But Do They Meet Their Own Requirements?


Published: March 12, 2009

Midterms have recently ended. You’re exhausted, yet another daunting task lies ahead: class registration. You trudge over to your advisor’s office, eager to get your questions answered. When you finally do get to ask your questions, your advisor tells you to take a class you’ve already taken or hands you a course bulletin that you’ve already marked up like a road map. You grumble and gripe all the way to your next class about how your advisor doesn’t know anything and that you’ll never succeed in college because of him or her, but how much responsibility really belongs to the advisor?

Every March and November at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), students meet with their advisors to sort out their class schedules and requirements before receiving their PIN numbers that are required for registration. Due to the extensive core curriculum, many students spend a fair amount of time mapping out how they will fulfill all of their requirements and hope to receive specific information from their advisors. Much to their annoyance, many are unsatisfied with this experience.

“My advisor is not helpful at all. He actually refuses to admit he is my advisor, “said Katie Roche, FCLC ’10.

“I’ve tried to meet with [my advisor] throughout the semester, but he is rarely in his office. He also has an office at Rose Hill and spends a lot of his time there,” said Christina Frasca, FCLC ’11.

According to several FCLC students, after finding their advisors repeatedly unavailable, they wander off into the wilderness of Fordham academic administrators. Some students encounter disgruntled secretaries or a door sign reading that the administrator is unavailable.

Other students also have difficulties reaching their advisors because his or her original advisor is on sabbatical or unavailable.

“[My advisor] is on sabbatical this year, and I went on a wild goose chase trying to find out who would see me. I went to everyone imaginable, and no one could answer me. Finally, Dean Greif came forward as the holder of my coveted PIN,” said Patrick Comey, FCLC ’10.

Some students have expressed that, even when they reach their advisors, these professors give wrong information or advise students in an apathetic manner.

Meghan Carpentier, FCLC ’10 expressed similar criticism. “I went to talk to my advisors about my future, and there was nothing there to steer me in a direction for after school. My advisor wasn’t helpful. He didn’t give me any direction,” Carpentier said.

Maggie Eckl, FCLC ’11, also had a negative experience with her former advisor.

“I decided I wanted to take both Japanese and Arabic. Professor Parker did not say anything to me about any problems I might have. She said, ‘Oh, it might be difficult,’” Eckl said. “Then [another administrator] became my advisor when Parker left. My Japanese and Arabic finals were scheduled the exact same day at the exact same time, and I had found out the Friday before that Monday, which was the exam. So I e-mailed [the replacement advisor], and she said to me, ‘That’s what happens when you take two languages.’ That was her e-mail response.”

Some students feel that they do get the information they need from their advisors and even look to their advisors for advice outside of the registration arena.

“We sat down and had a meeting for about an hour. We didn’t just discuss my classes,” said Cecilia Nardi, FCLC ’11.  “We discussed my future, study abroad and stuff I’m doing over the summer.”

“My advisor asks what I’m interested in, and she has suggested possible careers in the communications field for me,” said Perry Sun, FCLC ’10. “I’ve decided what industry I want to go into, and my advisor’s suggested classes to take.”

Advisors undergo a mandatory full-day training session the day before classes start. They are provided with basic requirements that students need to fill, contact information for various Fordham resources and other academic information.

Amy Aronson, freshman advisor and assistant professor of communication and media studies said, “My associate chair at the time went over the departmental requirements with me—we have a checklist—and let me know that I could always ask him if I had any questions.”

“Fordham does train you to advise,” said Kathryn Kueny, director of the religious studies program at FCLC and clinical professor of theology. “We get a lot of information on resources, and there are seminars and training sessions that one can go to as well.”

Sometimes advisors may not have the answers to their advisees’ questions, and they will refer students outward.

“If it is a course or requirement-related issue, I refer students to my chair,” Aronson said. “If it is a question about requirements, I refer them to their class dean. If it is a course-related issue, I send them to the professor who teaches the course.”

“We have a whole slew of phone numbers and contact people that we’re given,” Kueny said. “So it really depends on what the problem is.”

Some students may expect advisors to have all of the answers to all of the questions right away, when the guidelines for advising may not be as black-and-white as the students and advisors might like.

“A greater percentage of advising is not that clear-cut, check-list type of advising,” said Joseph Lawton, director of the visual arts department at FCLC. “A great deal of time is spent advising students who may not be assigned me, for example, as their advisor, but they want to know about the visual arts in general, about certain specific classes. That’s the kind of advising that is actually directing, not just merely saying, ‘Here’s the checklist on the path to graduating.’”

Students also may not be as vocal as they could be about the difficulties they experience with their advisors. Though students complain to their friends about how their advisor was not at his or her office hours or ended up taking an unnecessary class because of that advisor’s poor guidance, the office of academic advising does not hear many complaints.

Arleen Pancza-Graham, freshman and sophomore dean for FCLC said, “We don’t generally have a lot of complaints. If an issue arises… usually a student would come to me and let me know that he or she is having a problem.”

While students are eager to find out information from their advisors, their advisors may not be clear about how to help their students because the students are unclear about what they want.

“If students do their part in terms of having given some thought to what they want to do and come with their questions, usually there is a very productive student-advisor relationship,” Pancza-Graham said.

“It’s very difficult when students come in and they have no idea, they haven’t looked at the courses, they’re not sure how many credits they need or how many courses they need to take to fulfill their core,” Kueny said. “So it’s good for students to have that information, and then the faculty can help them if they’re having trouble with something or lacking some information.”

Oftentimes, the best advisor-advisee relationships occur when both the student and the advisor invest their energy and interest in the student’s success.

“The student needs to be forthright about what they’re interested in and what they want to do, and the faculty member has to take more than a perfunctory interest in having them pursue that. So I think you can say that if there is a problem, [that problem] probably falls on both sides,” Lawton said.