University News

Increased satisfaction reflects advising changes

Contributing Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2011
This article is part of the series Fall 2011 Student Poll

Many students are drawn to Brown by the freedom and independence the New Curriculum offers. But once they arrive on campus, some struggle to find a thread of continuity to hold together their many academic interests.

“At a place where there is so much choice, advising is paramount,” said Ann Gaylin, associate dean of the College for first-year and sophomore studies.

According to a recent Herald poll, 72 percent of students say they are satisfied with advising, a significant jump from the 49 percent who indicated they were satisfied in the spring of 2008. Gaylin said the Office of the Dean of the College has been working hard in recent years to earn those percentage points. “Every facet of advising has gone through improvement,” she said.

These improvements include new developments such as the electronic Advising Sidekick, expansion of programs like the Meiklejohn system and the transformation of the Center for Career Development into the CareerLAB.

Though poll results may reflect these new programs, advising is still evolving.

Juniors and seniors are much less satisfied with advising than underclassmen — 83 percent of first-years indicated that they were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with advising, while 61 percent of seniors said the same thing.

“First-years are always happier,” Gaylin said. “We see the same dissatisfaction across peer institutions.”

Besenia Rodriguez, associate dean of the College for research and upperclass studies, noted the same trend but believes the Office of the Dean of the College is moving advising for upperclassmen in the right direction.

“We started by placing a huge initiative on first-years and sophomores,” she said. “Now we are looking at concentration advisers.”

University Hall is taking a two-pronged approach to improving advising for upperclassmen. The peer-advising system has expanded with Departmental Undergraduate Groups — 25 new DUGS have been created in the past two years. And Rodriguez said there has been an effort to increase support for concentration advisers to provide them with the same resources available for first-year advisers.

“We’re trying to use concentration advisers as a vehicle for career-planning, a way to demystify life after Brown,” Rodriguez said. With the expansion of the CareerLAB and a recent project involving a compilation of alumni testimony that provides students with a sense of the “diverse job opportunities” available to them, Rodriguez and her colleagues are attempting to give upperclassmen advice and mentoring that fits their stage of education.

“We want to help students identify what their direction could or should be,” she said.

“Because the open curriculum is so individualistic, it seems that the point of the advisers is not to tell me what to do — it’s to let me tell them what I want to do,” said Kristy Choi ’15. “It’s worked out pretty well. My professor has been good, but I love my Meik.”

Jane Hu ’15 said support from both professors and Meiklejohn advisers creates an effective system. “I’m interested in neuro and French, and my Meik is in neuro and my adviser is a French professor, so it worked out. They can guide me in different ways,” she said.

“Advising was much more formal freshman year. Now it’s more like mentoring,” said Susie Ahn ’13, who described her adviser as a “sounding board” for her ideas.

While student testimonial on advising is generally positive, there is still room for improvement and effective changes.

According to Gaylin and Rodriguez, the system will keep evolving, and the University will continue its efforts to provide students with guidance during their time at Brown.



Written questionnaires were administered to 851 undergraduates Nov. 2-3. The poll has a 3.1 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. The margin of error is 6.4 percent for seniors, 3.6 percent for non-seniors, 6.3 percent for first-year students and 3.6 percent for non-first-years. Find results of previous polls at

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