Advising system can cause problems for double majors

As course registration approaches, many students are visiting their advisers’ offices for help choosing their courses for the upcoming semester. But for students pursuing multiple programs of study, that meeting is not always as effective as many think it should be.

Last week, the Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution recommending that USC consider offering interdisciplinary advisers that could help students figure out how to best approach their double major or minor.

Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs, said he thinks advising is an important issue and one that should be addressed.

“What USG is calling for is more sharing of information and more responsibility at the university level,” Bickers said. “And I think that is right on track … I think it is something that needs more attention.”

Under the current system, students who have majors in two different programs are assigned to two different advisers. The proposed interdisciplinary adviser would serve as a separate entity, overseeing students whose majors or minor fall in distinct departments.

“I think it would be a good resource,” said Caroline Jing, a sophomore majoring in public relations and international relations.

Advising across USC varies by department. For Annenberg students, for example, it is mandatory that you meet with your adviser at least once a semester. Marshall, meanwhile, only requires students to meet with an adviser during their freshman and senior years.

“It does get tricky,” said Heather Cartagena, assistant director of undergraduate programs. “It is the decision by those departments that [freshmen and seniors] are the most critical students … they do not have the resources to meet with all their students.”

For small schools like the Roski School of Fine Arts and the School of Theatre, there are only two advisers on staff because that is enough to serve the low number of students. Majors like biology and business administration have a large number of students and limited counseling staff.

In the past, one of the big obstacles for students pursuing multiple programs was that, with the varying advising systems, often information did not get passed from one adviser to another.

“We found that advisers from different departments and schools were creating completely separate advising records,” Bickers said. “There was not enough sharing of information.”

In 2007, a database was created to coordinate better communication between advisers, and since then measures to create more efficient communication between departments have continued to improve, Bickers said.

Every adviser has access to the database where they can relay information and send referrals and comments to each other. Each student has a profile listing their GPA, units completed, majors and minors.

Regulations are also implemented in the current system that help advisers maintain contact with other departments. For example, there is an audit after the fifth semester for students who have a double major. For the audit, advisers from each department are required to meet together to make sure a student is on path to graduate.

But, despite the efforts to foster open communication and effectiveness some students still find trouble navigating through their schedule.

“It would be interesting to see statistics showing how many students had to stay an extra semester because of poor planning,” said Christine Tung, a junior majoring in biology and philosophy.

As more students begin to find a second major or minor, methods of advisement efficiency are in question.

“It’s a timely thing to be talking about,” Bickers said. “It’s certainly something we will listen too.”