One of the faculty duties I found perplexing when I started my career was that of student advising. My personal experience as an undergraduate student was less than pleasant, so I wanted to do a good job, but I wasn’t sure where to turn. My department provided me with some general forms to help guide me, and I reviewed the catalog fairly closely, but figuring out things like course rotations in other departments made me paranoid that I would fail to provide accurate advice.
I think that most students seem to want advisers who will merely “punch” their registration cards, providing them with the necessary passwords or whatever might be required for self-registration. A few seek advisers who will double as mentors, but most students seem to want the path of least resistance (and accountability). I have to say, though, that in my role as dean this creates one of the most significant headaches of my job: trouble-shooting either flawed faculty advising or wrong-headed self-advising. The stakes are high: Errors may cause students to remain in college for an extra semester or faculty members to teach directed studies as overloads.
How did you learn how to advise students? What improvements would you suggest for increasing the effectiveness of this important activity?