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Our Advising Policy

Our current advising policy is divided according to the number of credits a student has accumulated: up to 45 credits he has to go to a central advising office for all engineering students, beyond that he is advised by faculty from his major.

I can imagine several reasons for that. Perhaps it is felt that incoming students have problems largely independent of the major, and therefore need an advisor who better knows all the services offered on campus, and the nonacademic student needs. Or this dates from the period when many students were admitted to the school of engineering, but had not declared a major.

But I believe it has a bad effect, for students should meet faculty of the major as soon as possible. They should be working on their major from the first semester on; that will reinforce their motivation and dedication to their study, or, in the unavoidable bad cases, tell students early that this is the wrong major for them. We know that not every incoming student is suitable to become an engineer, but it is a failure of the program if the student find that out only after having spent many years in the program. This happens through bad advising; I have met students who were advised to start with easy courses in the general education program, and postpone the courses of their major. That is really bad advice.

I believe that we should find a way that every student meets faculty of his major from the first semester on. Students should know who the faculty are, and what they are doing, because this is the best chance to find out about their major. Also, for any application for an award, scholarship, Internship, etc, students have to rely on professors: they tell them what is available, where they should apply, how to write application letters, and write letters of recommendation. Student success requires having a supportive relation with some faculty, and the first step to that is to meet them, early and often.

A lot of advising also happens in informal discussion. I once was at a place where the department organized each week a “Pizza with a Prof” event, where the faculty took turns to go with students to a pizzeria. I think such frequent informal meetings help students get oriented, and establish  important advising and mentoring relations that continue beyond the pizza.