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Baker Foundation Completes Survey on Advising

By Jennifer Lane
Staff Reporter

Seventy percent of upperclassmen feel that the current academic advising system at least adequately meets their needs, according to the results of the Baker Foundation Upperclass Advising Survey.

Students also responded that the most important functions of an academic adviser are to inform students' of their post-MIT options, to provide letters of recommendation, and to chart academic progress.

According to the survey, upperclassmen are least satisfied with their academic adviser's performance in three areas: discussing post-MIT options, providing letters of recommendation, and helping to clarify career goals.

The Baker Foundation conducted the survey early this semester, after results of last year's Senior Survey showed that 6 out of 10 seniors were dissatisfied with advising, said Arley Kim '95, chair of the Baker Foundation.

The foundation also hoped to increase student awareness of the advising system and its problems, and to encourage individual departments to communicate and improve their advising systems, Kim said.

Preliminary results were presented to the faculty Committee on Undergraduate Performance and the committee pledged its support to further action, Kim said. A full report will be written in May and presented to individual departments, she said.

Should be approachable

The most desirable qualities in an academic adviser, according to the survey, were that the adviser be easy to talk to and approachable, respectful of the student's decisions, and familiar with the student's academic background.

Students are dissatisfied with their adviser's ability to identify what needs to be done to reach the student's educational goals, the ease with which they approach their adviser, and their adviser's familiarity with their educational background, the survey said.

The survey results were compared with nationwide statistics gathered by the American College Testing Program, Kim said.

The comparison showed that 23 percent of MIT students meet with their adviser at least three times a term, compared to 58 percent nationwide. Twenty-eight percent of MIT students spend more than 15 minutes per meeting, compared with 36 percent nationally, the survey said.

Only 17 percent of upperclassmen responded to the Baker Foundation Advising Survey handed out on Registration Day and later mailed to students through their departments, Kim said.

"The response rate was a little disappointing," Kim said. Fewer students responded because there were about five surveys being handed out on Registration Day, Kim said. "Students are inundated with surveys, and thatlessens their importance," she said.

Students want to choose

One of the survey aspects that departments will now focus on is how students are matched with advisers, Kim said. Sixty percent of upperclassmen said that they would like to be able to choose their own advisers.

Freshmen often don't know exactly what they will want from an adviser, but "as students become more aware of their needs, they can better pick an adviser," she said.

One of the Baker Foundation's goals is to "encourage faculty and studentinteraction and to emphasize that students can change their adviser," Kim said.

"Each department does advising it's own way," Kim said. With the final report in May, each department will learn how other departments structure their advising, she said. "Departments can learn from each other," she said.