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Voices of the Global Community

Virginia Hueske, Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission Chair

In her recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, Catherine Stimpson, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University, declared the graduate school to be “the most important stadium on any research-university campus (Stimpson, p. B7).” Of course, we who advise graduate students and students at professional schools agree. We sometimes think that teaching and research assistants are the oil that makes a university engine run, an unrecognized truth that would be evident only if grad students suddenly ceased to exist. Nevertheless, as Dean Stimpson points out, things are somewhat better for graduate students now than when she was a pursuing her Ph.D.

Diversity, interdisciplinarity, and professionalism are gauges by which we measure improvement over the last several decades. Part of the improvement is due to faculty and professional advisors who support these changes. The classic relationship between a faculty research supervisor and a master’s, doctoral or professional student is still the essential relationship. Built around that, whether at the large research institution, a small college, or the professional school, those who advise strive to meet the needs of today’s graduate and professional students.

What do our students need? At a minimum, they need accurate, timely and transparent information about program admission requirements, course and degree requirements, professional licensing, and certification. They need to understand such things as the culture of the institution in general and the department in particular; how to teach undergrad students and how to navigate research labs; how to apply for grants and project funding; how to prepare for, attend and present at conferences. Hard work and a high level of expertise in advising, data management and administration are required of us all.

Is the master’s student fresh from undergraduate school? Maybe a little hand-holding is in order, especially if this person is young and moved directly into the program without ‘real world’ experience. Is the new law school student coming back from the workforce with spouse and children in tow? Practical advice about health and childcare may be in order. Is the Ph.D. student nearly finished with course work and facing qualifying exams? Providing clear directives about how to navigate the process will lessen anxiety.

Just as for those advising undergraduates, the ways in which we support our graduate and professional students are myriad, complex and becoming more so. We work hard to define the realities of our profession and seek colleagues with whom to communicate and commiserate. In this process many discover that while we may be seen as individual “angels of mercy” in our own programs, there are people who do just what we do in most graduate programs. Both faculty and professional advisors of post-baccalaureate students face similar challenges, regardless of the discipline or the university. We must find each other and learn best practices for serving our students and our profession.

In her article, Dean Stimpson eloquently identifies the mission, or “deep purpose,” of graduate education as three-fold. 1. “… a place where the most promising and lively minds of several generations come together to work on the central problems of the time and of the disciplines” and “breaks through conventional wisdom.” 2. Graduate school educates the “next generation of scholars, researchers, intellectuals, artists, and educators.” We can include with this doctors, lawyers, and all other graduates of professional schools. 3. Graduate schools “embody an ideal of a community of advanced inquiry (Stimpson, p. B7)

It is incumbent upon those of us close to the “oil in the engine,” i.e., the students themselves, to find the best ways possible to help to fulfill this mission.

Virginia Hueske
Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission Chair
The University of Texas at Austin
avvh@mail.utexas.edu

Reference

Stimpson, Catherine R. (June 18, 2004). Traditions and Winds of Change in Graduate Education. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. B6.

If you would like to find out more regarding advising graduate students, please visit the Advising Graduate and Professional Students Commission Web site.

Connect with colleagues and discuss this article on the Graduate student advising electronic list.

Cite this article using APA style as: Hueske, V. (2004, September). Issues in advising graduate and professional school students. Academic Advising Today, 27(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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