Who advises the advisors?

Austin Hall

A collaborative effort between fourth-year ASWC Chair of Academic Affairs Kirsten Trout and Vice President for Academic Affairs Darrin Good has culminated in a plan for students to e valuate their advisors, in much the same way that they assess their professors at the end of every semester. 

While many Whittier College students see their advisor as a faculty member who can take holds off of their account, the mandates of a Whittier College advisor span much further than that. According to Trout, advisors are supposed to help students prepare for life after college. This includes helping them find jobs and internships, as well as exploring their options, such as graduate school. In an interview with the Quaker Campus, Trout said, “One of the biggest issues is that a lot of students, especially incoming [first-years], don’t understand what exactly your advisor is supposed to be to you, because it’s not explained.” If students were told to assess their advisor in the same way that they assess a teacher, they would gain a clearer knowledge of the duties of their advisor and how well they’re fulfilling them.

In an effort to highlight the responsibilities of an advisor,  Good asked Trout to draft a sample form of what an advisor evaluation form might look like. “[Good] brought up the idea that we didn’t have an academic advisor form at Whittier College, and they’re at almost every other college that I’ve looked up online,” said Trout. She based her sample draft on the advisor evaluation forms used by other, larger schools, such as Boston College, University of California(UC) Berkeley, and UC Davis. 

While her form is not as thorough as those of the larger schools that tend to require strict accountability, it demonstrates a clear mission to help students ensure that they are getting as much out of their advisor as they deserve. 

According to the sample form, students would ideally be expected to fill out an evaluation form every semester after completing their advising meetings. On a scale based how strongly you agree or disagree, the forms entail questions such as how readily available one’s advisor is, or if they are actively preparing one for a successful future after graduation by assisting with things like internships and job opportunities. While advisor evaluations come standard with bigger schools, Whittier College has yet to introduce anything similar.

 While Good and Trout have not yet proposed the idea to the school’s higher authority, Trout did meet with Associate Dean of Academic Evaluation Andrew Wallace.

“I shared [the form] with him and he brought it to a faculty-run evaluations committee, and they’ve been stewing about it. They don’t know if this form is exactly what they’ll be using, or if they are going to be using a form, but it sounds like everyone is on board with wanting to instill that philosophy of what it means to be an academic advisor.” 

To Trout, the philosophy of a proper academic advisor is in line with the rest of the school’s beliefs. “One of the things that Whittier College preaches is that since it’s a small community, you’re going to have close relationships,” stated Trout. “People come here so they can be friends with their teachers and advisors, to give them career opportunities, job opportunities, internships, and having a better chance at getting a career after the four years.” 

Trout hopes that advisor evaluations will help ensure that advisors are providing as much assistance to their advisees as possible. “I think this would be a good way to not only let students know, ‘Hey, this is what your advisor is supposed to be doing for you,’ but it also serves as a reminder of the philosophy of what an advisor should be to the actual advisors,” said Trout. As of yet, no official plans to have students fill out Advisor Evaluation form after their semesterly meetings have been proposed to other faculty members.

The Whittier College Faculty Handbook can be found at whittier.edu