TAKING STUDENT CONCERNS SERIOUSLY


The fortunes of FAME

A response from Freshman Advising and Mentoring at Emory

BY JOANNE BRZINSKI, ASSISTANT DEAN OF STUDENT ACADEMIC AFFAIRS, EMORY COLLEGE


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A response from the Student Counseling Center and Student Health Service


Academic Exchange October/November 2000 Contents Page

Dr. Brustad's concerns about Emory's program for first-year students (once called freshman seminar, now called FAME, Freshmen Advising and Mentoring at Emory) have been shared by Emory College and involved faculty and staff. The result, beginning last year, is a redesigned program, one which is quite different from the old freshman seminar program Dr. Brustad discusses.

Two changes in the program have been key. First, we have re-emphasized the primacy of academic advising in fame. We encourage group meetings to focus on academic topics and goals and have asked fame leaders to introduce students to the opportunities at Emory instead of planning social outings in the Atlanta area. Most faculty leaders in fame have made this switch. For example, I spoke with one fame leader recently whose group would discuss choosing a major the following week and study abroad opportunities the week after. The second change was
to reduce the period of time that group meetings were held from a full semester to six weeks (roughly, until fall break). This change has been ideal, providing new students with a structured introduction to our community but ending before the obligation becomes onerous. Faculty advisers have always had an obligation to meet with and work with their first-year students individually, as their primary academic adviser. The new, six-week format allows faculty more time and energy to meet the individual needs of their students. We are also working on new mid-term reporting procedures to help fame advisers identify earlier students having academic difficulties. I hope faculty members who know only the older incarnations of the program will take a second look at the redesigned program.

I agree with Dr. Brustad that the quality of academic advising would be improved if fame groups were smaller. The constraining factor is always the number of faculty willing to give their time to non-major advising. With ten more faculty leaders, fame groups could be reduced in size by 10 percent or more. I also wish that fame leaders (faculty, staff, and students) would always show up when they should and do what they have agreed to do. When informed that a student leader is not doing his or her part, we immediately replace that student leader. We have also had to deal with faculty advisers who fail to appear during registration. However, in my experience, these are rare exceptions. The faculty, staff, and student leaders involved in fame are committed and reliable and work very hard to improve the experiences of entering students at Emory.