Advisement Day is Tuesday, March 31, so I sat down with Tamara Brantmeier, an adviser, an associate professor in her 11th year and director of the School of Art and Design. In other words, someone who knows a thing or two about how Advisement Day should go.
So, as you head to your Advisement Day meeting, consider taking Tamara’s advice to heart. Also, feel free to leave a comment below.
Well, I think there are a couple of things. For one, I think students need to be responsible for knowing their program requirements and for planning out their schedules. The advisers get to do things like see red flags, like when (students) are digging themselves in too deep. Maybe taking too many intense courses at a time, or they’re taking something out of sequence, or reminding them of a special topics course. Our job is to just make sure they’re on track and to offer solutions or suggestions to round things out — to help them stay balanced toward a particular goal.
How can students prepare to make sure they’re productive during their advisement meeting?
Come prepared. And so what does prepared mean? That means what I just said — knowing your program requirements, but also there’s the eight-semester sequence on the back of every single program plan. And so to literally have a piece of paper and check things off as you go, and if you take things out of sequence know where you need to catch up. So, I just always tell students, my advisees, approach fall semester with their ideal class situation and then have a plan B and even a plan C. I encourage them to register for and schedule their major courses first and then their general education courses around those core classes because there are often several sections. So yeah, they should come prepared with a plan, always have a sense of where they are on their “quest for graduation.”
So what are some common questions students ask?
Students ask about studying abroad. A lot of students worry about the cost. So I tell them they’re never going to regret the investment and that financial aid will cover it if they need. I’ve helped students develop rationale for their parents too. When students ask about (studying abroad), often the next question is, “Will I still be able to graduate in four years?” So, I help them problem-solve around that. With some majors, their only (study-abroad) option is summer. If you want to go for a semester or year, that’s a different story. I get questions about what professors are “the best.” I feel a little funny saying that, but what I do is reflect back on comments I’ve heard about professors from students. It’s not my preference; it’s what I’ve heard from students.
What’s something you wish every student would think about before their advisement meeting?
Really, it’s about 30 percent of students who come thoroughly prepared and have mapped out their classes through graduation. I want students to keep their eye on the big picture, like their whole time here, not just getting through the semester and “what do I have to do next?” Always think about it in the bigger context. And it’s hard because our students work so hard and are so busy. They’re working jobs and it is hard to remember the big picture. I try to hold that out for students, “OK, it’s just a moment in time right now, I bet you’re overwhelmed, but you need to think about the whole thing.” The choice you make right now for fall has ramifications, both good and bad. And that’s where advisers get to say, “You know, I don’t think you’re thinking this through. Look at your sequence, look at what’s recommended.” Our job is to kind of steer and help guide. I really just want students to take ownership, and maybe that’s just because I’m more type A and I was like an “uber planner.” I still am and I always have goals; not everybody is built like that. But I think it’s a skill that can be learned.
How many students do you advise?
I advise anywhere between 23 and 27. So, a lot. Pretty much everyone in the School of Art and Design has a full roster of students like that.
Do you get a lot of students using advisement day for vacation?
Oh, don’t get me started! “I missed the group session,” “Oh, I register in an hour, I need to see you now.” I can’t even tell you. It’s just like, I’ll reply to your email tomorrow. I’m not going to drop everything because you didn’t want to wake up, you know? See, that’s a respect thing and I feel utterly disrespected when students don’t show up for advisement day and want me to drop everything. I want students to take ownership. Again, it’s a life skill. I’m going to hold them to that expectation.
So what if someone actually can’t make it to the meeting, can they still get the same help as they would on Advisement Day?
Advisement Day is on the academic calendar a year in advance — seems like you could get the day off of work. If you know you’re going to miss it, for “work” then you should set up an appointment before Advisement Day. You should try not to play catch up. It’s kind of like when you know you need to miss class. You contact the instructor and say, “I have to miss next Wednesday for whatever reason, how can I work ahead?” Proactive — that would be a one-word answer to that question.
Why do you think Advisement Day is specifically important for freshmen?
It gets them connected with someone who’s going to be a resource for them. Whether it’s their first-year advisers in the fall, or especially the semester in the spring, they’re meeting their person in their major. And so, it’s a connection point. It’s a resource; they shouldn’t miss out on it.
How is the day different for sophomores, upperclassmen or nontraditional students?
It’s that touch point, right? Your adviser is someone who has watched your progression as you’ve gone from semester to semester. They know the idiosyncrasies. Maybe you decided to take this class early and another class later. So we can help you kind of work through it. We also know, hopefully, what your goals are, and we know you want to try and get an internship as soon as possible. When we can’t be a resource because we don’t know something, we know who to point you toward. I think for those upperclassmen it’s all about that connection and that relationship.
If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?
Oh, I take that question very seriously. It’s easy to say I’d like to fly, but part of me wishes I had the power to be invisible whenever I wanted to. I would love to listen in on conversations. Oh gosh, I want to know so much. I would love to be invisible and I would use it for good, not evil. I would use it to gain insight.
Is there anything you’d like to add about Advisement Day or just about being at UW-Stout in general?
I could leave you with one thing I sent my advisees this semester. It’s often hard to get seniors to come to advisement day because they think they don’t need it. They’re often the students that, I’m like, “Are you sure you don’t want me to look over your degree audit to make sure you are on track to graduate?” or “are you really sure you don’t want that assurance?” I told my seniors to just come in and give me a high-five then. Come in, I’ll look at your degree audit, we’ll high-five and you’ll be on your way in three minutes. And I also said, we could use 15 minutes and proofread your cover letter. We have this day off of classes; let’s figure out how we can use our time wisely.