Your Faculty Adviser
Incoming first-year students are assigned a faculty adviser for their first and second years. Students formally declare majors in their sophomore year, at which point they receive an adviser in their home department(s). Getting to know their faculty adviser is encouraged, and it often makes a difference in how students approach decisions regarding their academic pursuits. Typically, faculty members have posted office hours, agree to appointments at other times, and will generally be available for consultation.
What is the role of a Faculty Adviser?
A faculty adviser’s primary role is to provide guidance on academic matters such as course selection, academic progress towards graduation requirements, and preparation towards identifying and selecting an appropriate major, given a student’s interests, skills and abilities. However, academic advising can present an opportunity for students and faculty to build meaningful relationships that transcend the classroom; it often is more than simply an exercise in selecting courses each semester. Many advisers are willing to discuss career options, such as graduate and professional school opportunities. Many assist their student advisees in dealing with challenges they encounter as they develop over their four years at Lafayette. In addition, faculty advisers can point students to other resources on campus—for example, additional academic support, career advice, personal help, and/or advice on a range of issues. Faculty advisers should always be one of the first places students go when they need help or guidance, but the success of the relationship depends, in large part, to students’ desire to engage in conversation.
How are Faculty Advisers assigned?
Students often wonder how faculty advisers are assigned. For example, they might question why if their interest is history, they might receive an adviser in music. The answer is multifaceted, but there is one critical reason: students’ interests change dramatically throughout their college career. What interests them frequently shifts after exposure to various disciplines as they pursue the Common Course of Study. Lafayette is committed to educating students broadly across disciplines so that they make informed choices based on their true intellectual passions. In turn, Lafayette is equally committed to educating students deeply in their chosen major(s) with the help of their major adviser(s) in their junior and senior years.
Some students do express a strong inclination toward a particular academic interest before they matriculate, and that interest can impact the kind of advising needed. For example, because bachelor of science (BS) and engineering programs are highly structured in the first two years, staying “on track” in order to successfully declare a BS or Engineering major is important. Therefore, the College tries to match students interested in these areas with faculty from the natural sciences or engineering.
Other students express interest in a bachelor of arts (BA) in social science and/or humanities disciplines, which typically are not as highly structured during the first two years. In addition, many students who are proficient with and interested in an array of subjects express no particular academic interest before matriculating, preferring instead to sample the curriculum before committing to a major/minor. These students are assigned a faculty adviser from a range of disciplines, such as English, history, foreign languages and literatures, government and law, art, music, philosophy, anthropology and sociology, etc.
How can students maximize their relationships with their faculty advisers?
Students should stay in touch with their faculty advisers, either through email or by making an appointment during the faculty member’s office hours. Ask questions, but do not wait until the last minute to seek advice. Please remember that everyone’s time is valuable, so arrive promptly and be well prepared.