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Mock advising (#1053)

Topics/tags: Teaching, end-notable

Grinnell, like most schools, has been looking for ways to give admitted and prospective students a better sense of Grinnell without having them physically on campus. I do not envy my colleagues in Admissions that task. I know all too well how you get a physical impression of a place only by being there and that one of the primary factors in choosing a school can be how comfortable you feel with the people around you, the fellow admitted/prospective students, the current students on campus, the faculty and staff, whoever.

In any case, one of the projects that our Admission office has undertaken is to set up virtual/online advising sessions with a faculty member and a few students. As I understand it, the idea is to give students a better sense of the close advising relationship that should be one of the hallmarks of a Grinnell education. In writing to the students participating in my session, I called it a Mock Advising Session.

Now, I suppose that every one of my advising sessions might be called a Mock Advising Session in that the odds are high that either (a) I mock my student or their schedule [1], (b) the student mocks me or my office [2], or (c) we mock the registration process or the software associated with it [3]. But this is the other sense of mock, as in to mimic, or what mockingbirds do [5].

Putting together my mock advising session has been an interesting experience, not least because I’m relying on decade-old memories of my most recent Tutorial [6]. But Tutorial advising, in my world, is a multi-day process. We begin with some discussion of the liberal arts and some instructions for navigating the morass of information available to students. I then send them off with some assignments, including not only readings but also requests that they talk to other students about courses they would recommend (and why) and that they read the descriptions of all special topics courses for the fall [7].

But that won’t work for one fifty-minute, Webex-enabled, mock advising session. So I gave my mock advisees another set of (optional) assignments. Let me see.

Why do I have them do all this? I believe that student’s course plans should be grounded in some perspective of liberal education and its goals. The first three bullet points help provide that background. The make a list is to give us something to start with. The special topics courses help give them a sense of the range of courses. The no-longer-included ask around for a great course does the same; it helps me make the point that different courses appeal to different people. The 300-level course is not only there to remind students that we have cool courses at the upper levels, but to help them realize that there’s often a series of courses to take to get to the one you want.

That’s probably too much, isn’t it? Oh well, I did say tell them that it was all optional. And it’s easier to advise students who have considered some background issues. I hope it will be fun for the students!

How will it go? We shall see [17].

[1] CS, Math, Econ, and Stats. Don’t you think you should take more than one subject this semester?

[2] How old is that can of soda on your desk? And when is the last time you’ve been on the other side of your desk? It looks like you can only reach it with a shovel.

[3] Hmmm … I don’t see any Ellucian products on the list of approved software. I wonder if that means that I can’t use WebAdvisor, SelfService, and other software of their ilk [4].

[4] I checked in an advising session today. They are approved.

[5] Ralph Savarese will note that my brain is now switching to a song originally performed by Inez and Charlie Foxx.

[6] I’d prefer to teach Tutorial every three years. It’s amazing how many things have gotten in the way of what I keep thinking of as my next Tutorial.

[7] Does that list still exist? Nope. But it’s possible to replicate. Go to our Search Schedule of Courses page. Select the term. Under Course Title Keyword(s), enter ST:. That should give most of them. Alternately, you can select course levels of 100-level, 200-level, 300-level, and 400-level and then select Special Topics from under Course Type. I mention the latter approach because (a) its the approach that the Registrar’s office shared with me, which led to the one I suggested [8], and (b) it’s what you should do if you want the list of variable-topic courses [9,10].

[8] Without their message, I might not have figured it out.

[9] Can you believe there was a time that we made our courses variable-topic, in part, so that students would see them on the list of special- and variable-topic courses?

[10] It appears that there are more variable-topic courses than I expected. I’ll admit that I’m not sure why all of them are marked as variable-topic. Perhaps that’s a musing for another day [11].

[11] Yes, it is likely that tomorrow is that other day.

[12] I didn’t point them to the primary Web page about the Mission Statement because someone has added a set of guiding principles about Free Speech. It’s not that I object to our free speech principles, but I don’t think they have the same status as the other two items on the page. I’m pretty sure it was never approved by the faculty. I, for one, would have objected to the This at the start of the fourth sentence, since my editor taught me not to use this as a pronoun.

[14] Have I mentioned how much I hate URLs that look like that? And how much I worry that they will change each year?

[15] Why is the PDF of our schedule of courses only available on GrinCo? I’m not sure. I attached it.

[16] I assured them looking at courses is easier once you are enrolled at Grinnell. I think that’s true. Searching on WebAdvisor/SelfService seems pretty straightforward, although I’m not sure how you find the special topics courses.

[17] More precisely, my mock advisees and I will see. I do not plan to share the results of the mock session with my readers.

Version 1.0 of 2020-04-21.