In Celebration of Advising

by Susan Gennaro, Marian Matez, Kathy McCauley, and Susan Schwartz

During her freshman year, junior nursing student Jill Marchetti needed help developing an academic plan. With the guidance of her faculty advisor, Jill had set challenging goals. She wanted to combine her major in nursing with a minor in women's studies, and spend her junior year abroad. Jill is headed for Israel this spring, having already completed the demanding courseload needed to fulfill her minor requirements. She credits her advisor with helping her negotiate and manage an effective curriculum plan.

Early on, Jill and her advisor began exploring career interests and the important steps in attaining professional goals. Jill's advisor spoke about the benefits of involvement in extracurricular activities as a way of developing intellectual growth and leadership skills. At her advisor's suggestion, Jill became involved in student government as an officer of the Nursing Student Forum and a member of the School's Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

Recently, Jill was named a Hillman Scholar, enabling her to receive scholarship funds in exchange for a commitment to work in a New York hospital upon graduation. It was Jill's advisor who helped her understand the financial and professional opportunities inherent in this program.

"It's been really helpful having someone at Penn who knows me and knows where I'm headed," said Jill. "Penn is a demanding place, and I've needed to know there is someone in my corner."

Sentiments about advising have been expressed by many students who recently responded to a School-initiated survey on advising which was distributed by the Nursing Student Forum. They commented:

"A one-on-one relationship is important. When we meet, it's just my advisor and me."

"Your advisor is your advocate. If you need help with a grade or a petition, or when it comes time to get a reference, there's one person there who really knows you."

"Having the same advisor for four years has been terrific. If she doesn't know the answers, she'll get them or tell me where to go for help."

For faculty, relationships with advisees demand time and energy, but most agree there are rewards. It is gratifying to help students become comfortable, self-sufficient members of the Penn community, particularly in the early years at Penn when they are grappling with life away from home, new responsibilities, and new rules--or lack of rules.

With faculty and student input, the School of Nursing has implemented an effective model of student advising with formal systems in place. At the core of this model is a holistic approach which addresses the intellectual, personal and professional growth of students throughout their four years at Penn.

Within the School of Nursing, advising is valued as an extension of teaching and is considered one of our more important responsibilities in nurturing the development of students. The School has expressed its commitment to advising through the establishment of an infrastructure to support faculty advisors. An Office of Student Affairs was created to serve as a resource for important advising information. This Office publishes a comprehensive and concise manual for advisors--available in hard copy as well as on-line--which provides answers to commonly asked advising questions.

Advising meetings for faculty are held periodically. These sessions provide an opportunity for faculty to problem solve, prepare for advance registration, discuss new programs, meet representatives from University support services, and share the concerns of students expressed in School-sponsored meetings.

To facilitate on-going relationships, students are required to meet with their advisors during each advance registration period. During these meetings faculty review course selections and assess the student's progress in attaining their goals. Advisors also assist in helping students cope with life beyond the classroom by helping them see issues more objectively and initiate the problem-solving process, or by referring students to any of the excellent support services available at Penn.

The advising system also is intended to nurture students' professional identity and scholarly potential during the undergraduate years. The advisor serves as a mentor by guiding the intellectual growth of their advisees. Because faculty are well-acquainted with research throughout the school, they are oftentimes able to match a student's scholarly interests with those of other School of Nursing faculty researchers. There are countless examples of how nursing students have become actively involved in faculty research resulting in regional and national publications and presentations.

A culture of advising has evolved at the School of Nursing--one that provides opportunities for faculty, as well as students. We have found that getting to know students in venues other than the classrooms has many rewards. It gives us cause to celebrate their growth as they develop their intellectual, professional and interpersonal skills, and oftentimes we find ourselves stimulated and refreshed by the youthful energy and creativity of Penn nursing students.

Talk About Teaching is in its second year as a series sponsored by the Lindback Society and The College of Arts and Sciences.

This month's contribution was written collaboratively by faculty members and advisors in the School of Nursing. Dr. Gennaro and Dr. McCauley are associate professors of nursing. Ms. Matez is assistant dean and director of undergraduate and graduate admissions; director of student affairs, and Ms. Schwartz is associate director of admissions.


Tuesday, November 21, 1995
Volume 42 Number 13

Return to index for this issue.
Return to Almanac Homepage.