UW News

November 30, 2006

Excellent advising, counseling a necessity

The secret, it seems, is out. From students across the University, to the Board of Regents, to all levels of the University’s administration, there is an unmistakable recognition that excellent academic advising and counseling is a necessity at the University of Washington. David Fenner, the director of UW’s office of International Programs and Exchanges, describes advisers as the connective tissue that holds the University together, a flexible linking of the University’s structure and our students’ dynamism. To this apt metaphor I would add another: keepers of the mission.

While sharing the territory of instruction with a legion of others at the University, advisers are uniquely positioned to ensure that students are learning what the University claims to be teaching: humane and informed decision making, mature and independent judgment, an appreciation of the depth and scope of human achievement, and the capacity to think and communicate critically. Excellent advising teaches and encourages the development of these time-honored qualities using what may be the most productive experiential learning opportunity a student comes across in college: the planning and execution of their own education.

This year the UW’s Association of Professional Advisers and Counselors (APAC) turns 30. It is the oldest organization of its kind in the country — antedating even the national version. As a professional community APAC kicked off this milestone year with a first-ever Summer Advising Summit. The summit brought together more than half of the University’s extensive advising and counseling community to revisit the foundations of our work and look ahead to the future of advising.

From this summit and numerous independent conversations, a set of goals were developed to chart the way ahead for advising this academic year. Among these plans, APAC is committed to:

  • developing technology that will allow advisers and counselors to more easily share professional information and strategies.
  • strengthening the channels of communication between advisers and Undergraduate Academic Affairs, the Office of Minority affairs and Student Life.
  • identifying decision-making bodies within the University that are currently without substantial representation from the professional advising corps.
  • encouraging and supporting the work of advisers who work with graduate students.

Most advisers are professional staff in academic departments who work either independently or in very small teams, and it can be difficult for advisers to get time out of the office. So, in addition to the work of supporting and inspiring our students, APAC knows that it is vital to strengthen the work of advisers and counselors by making time for us to come together in more social venues. APAC sponsors two large social events annually — a winter holiday party and a spring luncheon to recount the successes of the academic year and to honor an Adviser of the Year. In between, APAC will sponsor a number of advising roundtables to discuss and debate contemporary literature and research in advising, as well as convene lunchtime brown bag series to promote and fine tune the professional skills of advisers.

As APAC enters its 31st year, the way ahead could not be more promising nor exciting for those of us who have the privilege to work closely with the University’s truly amazing students. The complexity of the UW can unfold intentionally and in very personal ways for our students when they are given the tools and the teachings necessary to unlock it. The University’s professional advisers and counselors are crucial to providing that kind of access. For more information about APAC, upcoming events and details about membership, please visit our Web site: http://depts.washington.edu/apac/apac.html