In a report by a visiting team of educators as part of the College's reaccreditation process, the educators highlighted advising as an area of Bowdoin's academic program that needs improvement.
"The quality of teaching at Bowdoin does not appear to be matched by a parallel quality in advising, especially at the first- and second-year level and in the transition to the major," the report said. "As a new curriculum is implemented, a recommitment to excellence in this area is of critical importance."
Though the College is committed to improving its advising system, Bowdoin students shouldn't expect to see any changes by the start of the fall semester.
In an interview with the Orient, Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd said that changes in the academic advising system were in the works, but that they would be incremental.
"Are there going to be immediate...changes at the start of next semester? Probably not," she said.
As a new dean, Judd said her experience this year was "a process of learning what we do well."
"There are clearly things we need to do better?whether by tweaking or moving to a different system, it's just too early to say," she said.
Judd said her office, in cooperation with the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, is working on making improvements to the advising system.
According to Judd, her office is hiring a new associate dean to work on the school's curriculum and the academic side of advising. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Nancy Jennings and Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett have also been collaborating on improvements to the advising system.
Judd also said that Bowdoin students have valuable relationships with their professors outside of the advising system.
"Students are enormously satisfied with individual interactions with individual members of the faculty," she said. "There is a difference between an adviser and a mentor. Part of it is making sure students know what they can expect from an adviser relationship."
"We have faculty enormously committed, and we need to make sure that the mechanisms for academic advising promote that," she added.
Judd said that the difficult part of the advising system is getting comfortable with a professor.
"Relationships take time to build, and that means there will be some degree of artificiality in those first interactions," she said. "It's crucial that students have those encounters with faculty early and often."
According to Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) Vice President of Academic Affairs Burgess LePage '07, Judd has also been working and talking with a group of about 15 students who make up an academic affairs student committee.
"The hope is that we will get professors who will make it more than it is now?more than just signing your sheet," LePage said. "The conversation has already been started, but we need student input."
LePage also said that Judd was open to looking at new ways to assign pre-major advisers to first-year students, and that changes were needed in the major advising system as well.
"No one knows how to find a major adviser," she said.
LePage said that critical to the academic advising system is the active participation of students.
"Advising is a two-way street; that's something that will not be overlooked when we're talking about it," LePage said.
Some Bowdoin students told the Orient that their relationships with their pre-major advisers consisted of little more than brief consultations during course sign-up.
"The only time I ever interacted with [my pre-major adviser] was to get my card signed," said Justin Strasburger '07.
Strasburger added that his adviser gave him some feedback at those times, but that "it was pretty cursory."
Of six students questioned, none said that he or she had a relationship with a pre-major adviser that extended much beyond signing a course sheet.
However, some did say that they had managed to find other avenues for advice, or felt that they didn't need formal advice at all.
For Judd, the role of an academic adviser "is to make you think hard about choices."
As an adviser, she said it is her job to "unsettle you as you settle into a new place."
"On the other hand, I have to be there as somebody who is continuing to be supportive," she added. "There's a built-in tension in advising?advisers are around to help navigate the difficulties, but often an adviser is going to put the next difficulty in front of you."