ASSU surveys on academic advising and BOSP

Jan. 21, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

At Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting, ASSU Undergraduate Senate representative Deepa Kannappan ’13 gave a presentation concerning student opinions on academic advising and the potential expansion of the Bing Overseas Study Program (BOSP) to the Middle East.

In a survey taken by 332 undergrads, Kannappan found that the majority of Stanford students ranked their undergraduate academic advising experience as average, with more students ranking it as below average than above.

The survey also asked where students felt they received the most helpful advising. Friends, online resources and residential staff all topped formal sources of advising like academic directors and pre-major and major advisers.

“Considering the caliber of majors that Stanford offers—the highly ranked, very interdisciplinary, very unique majors offered here—this number should be much higher,” Kannappan said. “I wanted to look into why students were not satisfied with their academic advising experience.”

Kannappan said she decided to repeat the survey when she realized that each individual class had a different academic advising experience, with Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) slightly shifting its policies each year.

The new survey, which asked for the participants’ class years, was taken by 150 undergraduates, and showed that the number of students who found academic directors and pre-major advisers helpful doubled between those respondents from the Class of 2014 and other undergraduates.

“The difference here was a change on UAR’s behalf,” Kannappan said.

Starting with the Class of 2014, undergraduates are now required to meet with their pre-major adviser before they can enroll in classes each quarter.

Both Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ‘82 and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam Jr. said they were pleased with the results of the second survey.

“We’ve seen the results of these kinds of surveys from other universities as well, and advising is just across the board ranked the thing students are least satisfied with at every university,” Etchemendy said. “But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to improve it…and [these numbers] are an improvement over what we saw two years ago when we were even worse.”

Kannappan then talked about student opinions regarding a potential expansion of BOSP.

In a survey taken by 300 students, 200 said they would be interested in a Middle Eastern study-abroad program. The top four locations students said they were interested in were Dubai, Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

Elam said the new director of overseas studies, professor Robert Sinclair, has also expressed interest in establishing study-abroad programs at other non-European campuses, specifically in the Middle East.

“How we would do that is a major question,” Elam said, “but it’s good to see there’s student interest.”

In addition to Kannappan’s presentation, ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11 spoke about sexual misconduct on campus.
Last October, the Partnership to End Violence Against Women sent out a survey regarding this issue, and by December, it had collected more than 4,000 unique responses from around campus.

The data is currently being complied before aggregate results are released.

But Cardona said that in professor Anne Murray’s class, “Critical Issues in International Women’s Health,” last quarter, 50 percent of students reported in a survey that they had known someone at Stanford who had experienced sexual misconduct or relationship abuse.

She said ASSU has been having conversations with administrators, specifically with Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman, about the issue, and will be putting on campus-wide training workshops this quarter in partnership with the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness.

“This is not unique to Stanford,” Cardona said. “This is happening all across the board at every campus, but I think as Stanford is a leader in everything else, we have an opportunity to be a leader in this issue, and in this movement, as well.”

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