The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ advising team at DePaul is in the process of changing how advising works within the college. The new model, which combines similar disciplines under a common adviser, is less about the number of departments advisers have and more about the number of advisees, as many smaller disciplines are being combined.
“The model we had for many years was due to how large [the college was] in the early 2000s,” said Tania Rodriguez, director of advising for the Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate College Office. “It used to be all one college, with Science and Health and Communications in LAS. [Those colleges] were set up, but we never changed the model, which is still a model of a largest system. Now, we are changing it to fit better to size.”
The current model functions by having the largest departments, like English, with advising staff and three decentralized advisers in her office that were general advisers, who split the rest of the departments’ advising. Now, they’re shifting to what Rodriguez called a “collaborative model.”
Rodriguez explained that what LAS is changing to is not widely different than what’s done in other colleges, like the College of Communication, but, instead of assigning students to advisers by last name, they’re doing it by department.
“I could see how students may be freaked out [when seeing all those majors combined under one adviser], but each department varies,” she said. “There are maybe only 35 people in African diaspora studies, for example, so each adviser may still average from 225 to 260 advisees.”
Students will still be assigned a faculty adviser in addition to a staff professional adviser.
“All students should be assigned a department major field adviser,” she said. “I’m not an expert in their field, so I can’t help with internships; faculty are. I rely on them for that expertise, but sometimes faculty aren’t comfortable helping with a four-year plan for a kid or working with someone on financial aid.”
The conversation began when an international studies adviser resigned from the university to pursue other professional opportunities in November 2018, and LAS was presented with the opportunity to begin modeling advising differently, Rodriguez said, prompting the college to combine international studies advising with other departments.
When a sociology adviser resigned for the same reasons in June, they condensed sociology and history together, she said. Economics and geography have been compressed as well.
As advising shifts and they continue to break down these departments, Rodriguez has taken over as the interim adviser for African and black diaspora studies, American studies, Islamic world studies, Latin American and Latino studies, modern languages, peace and social justice studies and sociology.
The information was first shared with students within these disciplines in an email from Rodriguez sent Sept. 25. In the email, Rodriguez said that the college is “looking to hire a dedicated adviser that will be shared by some of these major field programs” in the coming months.
When the news first broke, students said that the shift made them nervous — but mostly for Rodriguez.
“I am a bit concerned with only one person being in charge of advising for all of those studies, but I am optimistic that the university will find more advisers to narrow down the huge responsibility that Tania has inherited,” said Robbie Merkel, a double major in political science and Latino studies.
“I was definitely a bit surprised by all the changes,” said Hope Rozeveld, a peace and justice studies major. “But I think most of those programs are fairly small, so hopefully the adviser isn’t too overwhelmed.”
Rodriguez said that it will certainly be a change, but one with which she is comfortable. Despite being LAS’ advising director, where she has historically worked with a small number of students, she has always worked with students in some capacity.
“I am a very hands-on director that gets involved with orientation and walking advising,” she said, adding that anytime a student has made a connection with her and requests her as their adviser, she has taken them on.
The groundwork for these shifts began in Summer 2018, she said, so she’s had some time to adjust to the workload as it has increased over time. She has managed it by using Blue Star for her appointments, offering phone or Skype appointments if no in-office times are available for students and providing as much information as possible via email, she said.
“I get they might be nervous about some of these changes, but they’re always welcome to come into the office and stop at the front desk or call us,” Rodriguez said. “[…] We will always have an adviser to see students, regardless of their assigned one. There’s always someone there.”