When going through the advising process, students are often contemplating potentially life-altering decisions such as changing their major. In the past, that process has often brought about frustration and confusion. Now, WKU has implemented changes that hope to improve that process.
Advising has shifted to a more centralized method for all incoming freshmen with under 60 credit hours, said Jordan Ray, a senior academic adviser in the Academic Advising and Retention Center. He said after students earn 60 credit hours, they are then transferred to an adviser in their college. Previously, all students, regardless of credit hours, met with the advisers within their major’s college.
Lynn Hazlett, the director of Student Academic Services, said the changes have made the advising process easier for students.
“Before, students would have to run to offices in places they had never been to find their advisor,” Hazlett said. “Students would give up at the front end.”
Hazlett said the changes improved consistency and will benefit students who would otherwise be lost. Under the new centralized advising system, students now go to Downing Student Union 2141 when they meet with an adviser. In the past, students had to go to wherever their adviser’s office was located. Some advisers were located on South Campus away from their department.
Not all students were confused by the old process, however. Louisville junior Ann-Lucas Simpson said she communicated easily with her adviser.
Simpson was already majoring in political science, but she added an English major at the end of last semester. She said she might meet with her English adviser this semester, but she thinks her primary adviser has already done a good job.
“It’s nice to have someone in my major so that they know exactly what my path will look like for the rest of my time here,” she said.
Simpson did acknowledge that the new centralized-advising method might have helped her add a major earlier in her college career.
“I think the centralized advising would have been more focused on my college career in general rather than specifically in political science,” she said.
According to Ray, this is not a separation of the colleges from their advisers, especially in the case of some departments within Potter College of Arts and Letters. He said the departments of art, music and theatre and dance, as well as the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, will still advise on the departmental level. Every other academic college and department in Potter College will follow the change. He said the advisers at the Academic Advising and Retention Center have the same information as the department advisers.
“We share plans on how to go forward with advising,” Ray said. “We want to make the process as comfortable as possible.”
Ray said he views the change as positive, and he said it provides students with resources, such as career coaches and resume-building events, to help students make an informed decision about their major.
Christopher Jensen, the director of the Academic Advising & Retention Center, said he began pushing for the updated advising format during Gary Ransdell’s presidency. He cited increased retention rates at institutions that had centralized advising, such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Georgia State University, as a reason for wanting the change.
Jensen said another improvement to the advising system is walk-in advising. In the past, students generally had to schedule advising appointments, and while they still have that option with the new system, they also have the option to walk in any time during open hours. He said that 360 students took advantage of the walk-in option during the first week of the semester.
Although students will not be meeting with an adviser in their major until they have earned 60 credit hours, the process to switch majors has not changed according to Jensen. He said students still go to TopNet and search for the “Major, Certificate, Minor, Concentration, Advisor Change Form.” They will fill it out, print it and bring it to the department office listed at the bottom of the form. He recommends that students meet an adviser in the Advising & Career Development Center prior to changing their major.
Ray said students shouldn’t rush into making a decision about changing their major immediately, as it will not make a difference once the semester is underway and students can no longer add and drop classes. He said, instead, students should spend time researching different fields and speaking with as many advisers as possible.
Jensen said students should talk to their current adviser and future adviser when considering a change in their major. He said they will help find a plan that better suits each individual student.
“We want to make sure no student is harmed,” he said.
Jensen said the changes initially sparked some concern within the colleges, but he has not heard anything negative since the start of the semester.
“It was announced in May and all the changes would happen over the summer,” Jensen said. “Due to the timeframe, individuals had questions, some of which could not be answered right away, causing concern.”
Students can meet with centralized advisers Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in DSU 2141.