Academic counselors need connection, too


Photo Credit: Carly Phoon | Daily Texan Staff

At UT, there is no “one-stop shop” for students in need of academic advising. In order for students to find their academic way on the Forty Acres, they have to first figure out where exactly to seek help. 

Students pursuing interdisciplinary learning at UT –– anyone seeking dual degrees, double majoring, pursuing a minor, on a pre-professional track and anyone whose general education requirements necessitate enrollment in courses outside of their major –– will eventually find themselves navigating the complexities of overlapping course requirements. 

UT has a decentralized academic advising model –– advisors are accessed through individual academic departments. This approach, while designed to foster advisors’ deep knowledge of their specific departments and colleges, is not optimal for students pursuing interdisciplinary learning.

To more fully and efficiently address advising needs and support both students and advisors, UT should transition to a model of academic advising that centralizes advising resources.

Students are shouldering the burden of locating the resources and information necessary to address their complex curricular concerns. Moreover, individual counselors, with an already heavy workload, must also hunt for answers to support students with academic questions outside of their major. 

UT’s academic advisors are isolated in their own departments and unable to effectively help students figure out cross-disciplinary situations. Students often have to juggle conflicting recommendations of multiple advisors who have no unifying platform that supports their collaboration. 

By creating the Academic Counselors Association (ACA), UT’s academic advisors have shown they know that the lack of centralization is a pressing issue.  

“As an organization, we host monthly meetings that provide advisors with opportunities to share knowledge and information from their respective departments, and we also work closely with Texas Advising Excellence (TAE) to help connect advisors to each other and to campus resources outside of our departments,” said Nyesha Brown, communications coordinator and webmaster of the ACA and academic program coordinator at the McCombs School of Business.

While this is a step in the right direction, it does not solve the problem. Advisors need institutional support, rather than casual forums, in order to develop a deeper knowledge base of the academic advising landscape as a whole. 

Aryan Bhalla, economics and sustainability studies sophomore, echoes this sentiment.

“Before every semester when I am registering for my classes I have to go to different advisors and I ask them for their suggestions, and they have a hard time helping me,” Bhalla said. “They often have to say ‘I don't know what classes you should take for your other major.’”

While a fully centralized advising model –– one in which all advisors are accessed through a common portal and all advising is integrated and fully collaborative –– may not be feasible for a university of UT’s size, there are aspects of this model that would enhance student advising at UT. In fact, most four-year institutions feature a model that incorporates some aspects of a centralized approach to academic advising. 

A central office could also house all pre-professional advising in one place and answer general questions about registration, credits and testing.

A more centralized academic advising model would ensure that students unfamiliar with the landscape of university education have easy access to the guidance they need. This model would ultimately better serve UT’s equity goals and its mission to serve all students. 

Academic advisors would have access to not just the depth but also the breadth of knowledge necessary to help students navigate their educational options.

Strelitz-Block is a Plan II and Anthropology sophomore from Austin, Texas.