Insight SP19 IB Advising Continues to Evolve




Since the formation of the IB department thirty years ago, the number of undergraduates has nearly doubled. IB is now home to around 450 students with diverse career goals: research, medicine, conservation, biological illustration, teaching — the list goes on and on. Faculty, staff, and student peer advisors are critical in helping students achieve these goals, and as the department has grown and student needs have changed, new advising approaches have been developed to meet those needs.

According to Eileen Lacey, professor and head faculty advisor, one of the major changes over the last 15 years has been the increase in IB majors who are interested in health careers. Lacey says faculty advisors have had to learn “what’s expected of pre-health students to make sure we’re giving them the right advice.” Zachary Chestnut, a staff advisor, says that IB advisors are part of a campus-wide prehealth advising committee, so that they can keep up to date on how to prepare students for health careers.

Faculty, staff, and peer advisors work together to share this information and coordinate advising efforts. They talk to students about a wide range of topics including course selection, research opportunities, studying abroad, applying to graduate and professional schools, and general well-being. Chestnut says they refer students to other campus resources, such as the health center and financial aid office, as needed. “We try to make as many connections across campus as possible to help every aspect of the student's life while they're here.”

One of their goals is to connect with students earlier — long before they declare a major. That way, Lacey says, “students can start getting accurate information about how best to prepare themselves to declare the major to make sure they’re on track early on.” Staff advisors reach out to incoming students before they even arrive on campus by holding summer webinars about IB as part of new student orientation. They also talk to lower division students in a recently created seminar (IB 77) and events across campus such as dinners in the dorms and satellite advising sessions. Chestnut says this is part of a larger approach to “meet students where they are.”

Another goal of the advisors is to build a strong sense of community. To facilitate this, each week the IB 77 seminar features a different faculty member talking about their research. “The idea was to expose students to the breadth of research in IB,” Lacey says. “Wherever they end up going, they've been introduced to this incredible range of topics.” Each seminar is followed by a reception where students can informally interact with faculty. This semester, the IB advisors have also started hosting a weekly tea time where students can drop in and talk with each other and the advisors. Lacey says that these are all efforts to make being an IB major “a more approachable, more friendly, more inclusive experience.”

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