HIGHER ED FACULTY

Advising Freshmen, Empowering Faculty

September 03, 2014 / Phil Lesch

Inside Higher Ed
September 3rd, 2014

Freshmen all over the country met with advisers last week, trying to decide which courses, in which order, they’d cross their fingers and hope to get into during a cruel game of “Refresh” with their internet browsers.

But not at the University of the South (although that's the way first-year course registration used to work there). The Tennessee institution known as Sewanee this year introduced a new system of freshman advising aimed at helping students start the year with set – and ultimately better – schedules. Rather than blindly picking courses out of a catalog and hoping there was still room, or that they were eligible, incoming freshmen over the summer gave Sewanee faculty “guides” an idea of what they wanted to study. They also named 12 courses they were interested in taking, including some they were passionate about, some they knew would challenge them and some in unfamiliar disciplines.

Working together in what they called a “war room,” these faculty guides hand-selected four out of those 12 courses for each student to pursue in his or her first semester. They did so using a low-tech mix of horse-trading, number-crunching, intuition and direct communication with students and parents.

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