The College of Arts and Sciences will expand its first-year advising program to include all newly-enrolled students, it announced on March 29. The program — in which new students meet weekly in small weeks with faculty members to ease the transition into college life — was implemented as a pilot initiative two years ago.
“Faculty and student feedback … showed that we have an opportunity to improve our pre-major advising,” Prof. Rachel Bean, senior associate dean for undergraduate education, told The Sun in an email. “The long-standing format of the faculty-advisee relationship, grounded in a single meeting during orientation, was no longer ideal.”
Arts and Sciences faculty voted in March to expand the pilot program — which began two years ago with 650 students and 62 faculty representing 23 departments — to now include all first-year students, following strongly favorable feedback from participants in the initial trial run.
In fall 2019, the first semester of the extended initiative, approximately 85 faculty members will provide academic advising in seminars covering about 850 freshman students. The exception will be declared biology majors, as their advising is handled through the multi-college Office of Undergraduate Biology.
“Advising is so much more effective when you have an engaged connection with the students. I found the seminar format does exactly that,” Prof. Jed Sparks, ecology and evolutionary biology, who led a seminar in the pilot program, said in a university press release.
“Students in my seminar frequently commented that actually knowing a professor at Cornell made it much easier for them to ask questions and talk about the future,” Sparks continued.
Nour Mourra ’22, a prospective biology and society major, was paired with faculty advisor Prof. Jean-Marie Law in the Asian Studies department, and is one of many students whose faculty advisors are not within their prospective fields of study.
“Even though she is not really able to help me with academics, she is very helpful in other aspects,” Mourra told The Sun. “She always makes sure that I always remember to sleep enough, eat enough, exercise — you know, telling me to ‘do your best to make sure that your health is a priority.’”
While all details concerning the rollout’s implementation have not yet been finalized, the current plan is for the seminar to consist of eight weekly 50-minute sessions in the first semester of the student’s first year about topics such as research opportunities, tips for studying and the general academic landscape at Cornell, according to Bean.
Unlike many students of Cornell’s professional schools, Arts and Sciences students enter the University without a defined major or academic path — making the facilitation of closer faculty advising a particular priority of the seminar program, Bean said.
One of the main goals of the seminar is for students to “create a strong connection with their pre-major faculty advisor” and “understand how they can effectively navigate the college and university to get the support they need,” Bean wrote. “The aim is to help students, whatever their background, successfully transition into our liberal arts program life.”
Alec Giufurta ’21 contributed to reporting for this article.