With all the high-profile speakers and stimulating basketball games that hit our campus, it is easy sometimes to forget that the purpose of attending Georgetown is academic achievement. It is important to ask where we can improve educational standards at Georgetown. The most obvious place to begin is the dean’s office.

Academic advising is not an old-fashioned process made obsolete by the Internet. Personal contact with a dean simply cannot be put on a Web site or sent in an e-mail. Ideally, academic advising goes beyond an adviser dispensing information to students – it should involve a committed adviser who works with a student to form a personalized plan of intellectual development.

Each of the undergraduate schools approaches the academic advising process differently. After declaring a major in the School of Foreign Service, students report to a dean for their concentration, who will continue to advise them until graduation. The College has the greatest challenge because its undergraduate population is roughly the size of the other three schools combined, yet its ratio of advisers to students fails to keep pace.

There are not enough advising deans in the College. Two are assigned to over 800 students in the senior class alone, and sophomores face that same unfortunate ratio. It is impossible for a dean to remember the names and unique circumstances of 400 students. During peak periods of demand like add/drop, students often have to wait in long lines to get a few, brief minutes with a dean.

The College Dean’s office is not designed to be the sole source of advising. Students in the College have faculty advisers in their major departments, but the advising they offer is limited to particular fields. Large departments, like the Department of Government, fail to provide enough advisers to adequately advise all the students in their department.

Under ideal circumstances, deans and academic advisers would get to know the students they advise and maintain relationships with them as they pass from sophomore to junior to senior year. But, sadly this is not the case at Georgetown. Students have a new set of deans each year.

With three advising deans for about 850 students, freshmen in the College enjoy a better ratio of advisers to students than the other years, which typically only have two deans, and a great deal of effort is made to make academic advising for freshmen as effective as possible. The majority of freshmen take the opportunity to meet with a dean and develop a four-year plan, which is an effective way to introduce students to the issues associated with the college academic process. But it comes too late.

Freshmen in the College – as well as the other undergraduate schools – are most harmed by completing pre-registration the summer before they arrive on campus. Deans are available by phone and e-mail during this period, but very few freshmen in the College have declared a major, and they have a greater range of course choices than other new students.

University leaders need to make improvements in academic advising a priority, since it is a weakness at the core of the institution. Better programs from the other undergraduate schools at Georgetown and other universities should be considered. For instance, both the School of Nursing and Health Studies and the School of Foreign Service have better ratios of advising deans to students. Also, students can schedule appointments with deans through an online reservation system in both of those schools.

The task of improving academic advising rests with the College Dean’s office, but the rest of the Georgetown administrative apparatus must do its part.

Financial resources should be allocated for the hiring of more professional staff for the Dean’s Office. The College would need six more advising deans (for a total of 16) to match the ratio of students to deans in the SFS.

The academic departments should review the faculty advising process to integrate professors better into the intellectual lives of their students.

The status quo is not a total failure, but it is also not good enough for a university that aspires to be among the best in the world.

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