Students could be required to do two faculty advisement meetings
By Rafaela Teixeira | Published Dec. 8, 2017
Kean students would have to meet with faculty for advisement twice every semester before registering for classes if a suggestion by the college administration becomes a requirement.
Kean President Dawood Farahi suggested the possibility that professors hold two, 30-minute advisement meetings per semester, according to Dr. Patrick Ippolito, president of the Faculty Senate and an associate professor in the College of Education.
He said Farahi suggested this to help improve Kean’s four-year graduation rates. Kean has a four-year graduation rate of 21 percent, according to U.S. News & World Report, and a six-year graduation rate of 49 percent, according to scholarships.com.
Students currently have holds on their KeanWise accounts that require them to meet with their advisors once a semester for advisement, at which time the hold is removed. Students are advised by the university’s full-time faculty, who are required to hold eight hours of office time a week.
A small committee of faculty members from each department will be discussing the president’s suggestion, Ippolito said.
The committee is tasked with coming up with alternative solutions and will also discuss better methods to improve advisement, such as looking into graduation rates and advisement success within each department at Kean.
Faculty members are trying to devise other effective solutions that can help students’ academic careers without a second advisement meeting, he said.
The next meeting to be held Dec. 7 will look at information from other universities, such as Arkansas State University and Missouri State University, as well as guidelines on better advisement practices from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advisement.
“In the end we have to come up with something that is going to suit [students’] needs as best as we can without putting additional impediments in the way that prevents [students] from making progress,” said Ippolito. “I think, personally, if I had to tell students to come in for a second meeting, I’m not sure how many would come.”
Factors like difficulty level, remedial courses, lack of credits per semester or section availability are all variables when analyzing Kean’s graduation rates, according to Ippolito.
Dr. James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers, the labor union representing full-time faculty at Kean, said the union is happy to work with the university on best practices for advisement. He said first the university should focus on providing the students the advisement options that they want.
“Well-resourced advisement services – potentially including a robust staff of professional, trained academic advisors; academic skills support; counseling; timely financial micro-supports, etc., coupled to appropriate faculty advisement – would do the most good by holistically addressing the variety of reasons that destabilize student lives and reduce student retention,” Castiglione said in an email.
Some students question whether a second advisement will help students and suggest other factors go into Kean’s poor graduation rates.
“I don’t think a second advisement meeting is going to help the graduation rate for me personally because for some it’s a financial thing,” said Pauline Janowicz, a junior majoring in communication studies. “My graduation rate wouldn’t be affected by meeting with my advisor a second time. It’s more, so how many classes can I afford to take this semester?”
Janowicz said KeanWise is very helpful for program evaluation and to register for classes. However, she suggested better class scheduling and more sections. She noted that her schedule for the Spring 2018 semester will be “mentally draining” because of the few sections available.
“The only time I can take one of my classes next semester is on Fridays between 3:00-6:00 pm and that’s the only time they offer the class,” said Janowicz.
Ippolito said that the registration system has many issues that need to be resolved.
“One flaw in the system of advisement is [students] come in, I send them off with a list of courses to take and then they go on to register and say ‘Oh this [course] won’t fit in my schedule, but this one will.’ We have to make sure students are on track to take the right courses,” said Ippolito.
Ippolito noted that professors have to be accommodating to Kean’s student population, which includes many students who commute, have full-time jobs and other responsibilities outside of school.
But students also have to make education a priority at some point, he noted. Students should be prepared to discuss their academics by doing research prior to the meeting. Guide sheets, ideal course list and the ability to receive information are essential for a good advisement session.
“I don’t think anyone is going to argue or fight against this decision because, as professors, we have to be willing to do whatever we can to help our students,” said Ippolito. “It’s an important aspect of student retention for students to have a connection to the university, the advisor or the activity. Many students have proven that once a connection has been made, students’ ability to complete their program is enhanced dramatically.”
Student involvement in campus sports, clubs and as employees are an important aspect in networking, making it essential for students to build that connection with their advisors.
Department heads will sit down with faculty to plan the schedule a year in advance. They understand that students aren’t able to take either all morning classes or all evening classes. Courses are offered in varying time slots throughout the week.
“We’ll get a peek at courses offered this past fall and we restructure our schedules based on how many of those courses were cancelled, or how many needed an extra section,” said Ippolito. “We speak to faculty and say ‘This is what you did last fall and this is what we’re looking to do next fall’ and the discussion takes place.”
Schedules are built around Kean’s faculty pool. Lecturers are required to teach nine courses a year and tenured or tenure-track faculty teach eight courses a year. Adjuncts may teach up to two courses a semester.
Professors try to meet students’ needs by making sure courses don’t compete with one another.
“We consider all factors,” said Ippolito. “But getting the information to the students is important, which goes back to the hold on the account. It’s an advisement opportunity.”