Advisor-Advisee Picnics, Saturday, September 1, 2012,
following the Welcome Ceremony
Suggestions for Structuring the Conversation:
As you think about what you will talk about with your advisees, keep in mind that they have spent all day traveling, unpacking, saying goodbye to their family, and moving into a new and strange environment. They are scared, nervous, and alone. For many, the main goal is to belong in this new place and meet people. But because you are their academic advisor, they probably also have a lot of questions about what they will be taking this first term and may expect you to talk about this with them.
The picnic is not the best time to get into the nuts and bolts of schedule planning, and it is not a good idea to begin advising students about their individual program (partly because that is part of their academic record and is thus confidential). Remind students that you will be meeting individually with them on Tuesday morning to get ready for registration, which takes place Tuesday afternoon. Between Saturday and Tuesday, students will also have several opportunities to learn more about various departments and programs, they will attend an Registration Planning Workshop, where they will have an opportunity to confer about transfer credits and placements, and they will have opportunities to work with upper-class students on schedule planning. In short, all their questions will be answered in plenty of time to register—encourage them to relax and to read the Week One booklet to what is coming.
Keeping in mind the place of the advisor picnic within the whole of Week One, here are some possible ways to direct the conversation. These are suggestions; feel free to adapt these suggestions to your own personality and goals for the evening, and to pick and choose the items that seem most helpful. You may wish to save some of these for later advising meetings.
- Make sure they know where and when to meet you on Tuesday morning (usually in the faculty member’s office). If you are meeting with the advisees of a colleague, make sure those students also know where to meet their own advisor that day. This information will be posted in the residence halls and in Buntrock, but it won’t hurt to mention it.
- Go through the Week One brochure with the students, pointing out the logic of the way the week is put together and stressing the importance of the various meetings and sessions in orienting them to the campus, to their fellow students, to the liberal arts, and to a residential college experience. In particular, remind them to attend the Registration Planning Workshop to which they are assigned on Monday morning (and all Week One events).
- By all means, answer their questions, but try to steer the conversation so that it is beneficial to all students and not particular to one student’s situation. Remind them that the Tuesday morning time with you will be an opportunity to delve further into questions that apply to them personally.
- Introduce yourself and talk about your own past experience of being a college student—where did you attend college, why did you go there, what do you remember about your own FYS orientation, what did you study, how did you become interested in your field, how did you end up at St. Olaf?
- Encourage each advisee to introduce him/herself as well.
- Talk with them about what it means to you to be an academic advisor and try to introduce the notion that an academic advisor doesn’t just sign registration cards a few times a year. Also point out that there are many other helpful resources around campus , including other faculty members, that they should feel welcome to use as needed. Consult the Academic Advising Syllabus and other advising resources on the Academic Advising Center Web site at http://www.stolaf.edu/services/aac/advisorforms.html in advance in order to familiarize yourself with these resources.
- Use the college’s mission statement to talk about what the liberal arts mean to you and to St. Olaf. Encourage them to read it before Tuesday. (In the Academic Advising Syllabus, see suggested activity using the mission statement http://www.stolaf.edu/services/aac/MissionStateActivity.html.)
- Talk with students about the value of exploring a wide variety of courses even if they think they know exactly what they want to do in the future; if they are very unsure of their goals, you might give them suggestions for exploring in an intentional way. Mention that there is a website specifically for students who are exploring options and interests at: http://www.stolaf.edu/pipercenter/ . One student on the Week One committee stressed that it is important for students to hear the message during Week One that it is acceptable to be exploring options and not be set on a particular major or career path.