Some first years may be in close contact with professors well before classes start this fall. A proposal for a new pre-major advisory program, introduced by Dean of First Year Students Janet Lohmann and Associate Professor of Psychology Suzanne Lovett, is designed to focus on students who need more academic attention during their first year at Bowdoin than has been directly provided in the past.
The project, discussed at the April 5 faculty meeting, is still in the planning stage but may be implemented this fall.
"We're just trying to figure out what we might do next year if we did something and it's totally in the beginning draft stage," said Lovett.
According to Lovett, the proposal came out of a perceived interest on the part of students and faculty.
"There would be a group of first years [that] would benefit from a more structured and more intensive advising program."
The program would offer more structured advising for students in need of greater academic attention in terms of scheduling, study tips and test prep.
Lohmann explained the preliminary steps that led to the conception of a new advisory system.
"There was a working group last academic year that looked at academic engagement or academic preparedness," said Lohmann. "They looked at how students connect with the academic program and one of their recommendations was to teach advisors how to connect with students. The last few years the College has been working very hard to think about the advising relationship between faculty and students."
Lovett said the student body also expressed interest in changing the current advisory system.
"We went to a student government-sponsored lunch on student advising and this issue came up about students wanting a more intensive relationship with an advisor," said Lovett. "This is the idea that we're meeting about right now."
"Clearly there are some students who are very self-motivated but for some students the transition to Bowdoin is a challenge," said Lohmann. "We want to make sure we're having the kind of in-depth attention that makes sure they are successful here."
To gauge professor interest in the program, Lovett and Lohmann held a special faculty meeting last Friday and discussed the possibilities for next semester.
"We have quite a few professors who are interested in participating in a program like this, who think that advising is a really important part of their job at Bowdoin and feel that they could benefit from more training on how to advise students," said Lovett.
One obstacle in this early planning stage is the busy nature of many professors' schedules and the challenges that their limited availability poses to gauging professor interest.
"For faculty the tricky part is that people go on leaves every couple of years," said Lovett. "So there are some people who are interested, but on leave, so the logistics will be tough to work out, but there is definitely a group of faculty that is very interested in these issues."
In terms of the current system, not much will change for most students. The goal is to identify those students who need something extra and match up with a professor who is willing to spend more time with them.
"We've done a lot of surveys in the past couple of years on pre-major advisors and generally most people think advising works," said Lohmann. "So this is really just trying to fine tune the system so we are meeting the needs of all kinds of students."