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Wednesday, December 6, 2023


UH needs to invest more in its advisors

A student stares at their laptop as an error flashes at them on the advising website

Len Duenas/The Cougar

From the moment you set foot on campus, your advisors are meant to be the guiding light that helps propel your educational journey forward. But for many students, the advising process can range from clunky to downright unhelpful, resulting in serious potential delays to graduation.

This is not to say that advisors are inherently bad people. On the contrary, most are simply trying their best in a job that’s high-pressure, low-paying and relatively thankless. A good advisor can make or break a student’s future, and they should be loudly applauded for their efforts.

But the issue is, to put it frankly, that the University doesn’t have nearly enough of those “good” advisors. Ask any student about the advising process and they’re likely to regale you with stories of long wait times and ridiculously short appointments that rarely end with useful advice.

This issue can be especially prominent when it comes to some of UH’s less “money-making” majors. It’s hardly a controversial statement; the humanities have been in decline for decades now.

As their buildings slowly crumble and the number of faculty employed in any department that doesn’t produce a “return on investment” keeps shrinking, high quality advising in various places has slowly become harder to find.

Take the journalism department, for example. For as much as the University’s program is touted as a “learning lab,” your advisor is rarely likely to explain to you the importance of obtaining practical internships or putting together a portfolio of clips.

Both of these elements are deeply vital to succeeding in the journalism industry, but advisors are more likely to point you towards the required classes and shoo you out of their office instead of patiently explaining a journalist’s career path or directing you to join student media.

Again, this is not the advisor’s fault, nor is this issue specific to just the journalism program. Each advisor for the journalism program has to handle students from a wide variety of majors, all lumped under the broad label of “communications studies.”

What this means is that each advisor is unlikely to know the specifics of how to help a student trying to get a job in niche fields like print, broadcast or radio journalism.

While societies and student groups like PRSSA or Coog TV are able to make up some of this knowledge gap, students need to know these options exist before they’re able to best make use of them.

Even more than that, students deserve to be informed about the path into their career of choice. Jobs in certain areas are scarce, to be sure. Not every student majoring in medieval history is likely to find themselves a comfy tenured position at an Ivy league.

But if students aren’t receiving crucial information about the field they’re going into, aren’t they being robbed of a fighting chance? The University invites students to dream big, but they can’t do that if many of them don’t even know where to start.

All of this doesn’t even take into account technical problems, like when the UH Navigate website supposedly crashed recently while students were trying to enroll.

Between individual advisors not being equipped to help students, delays caused by a limited amount of availability and unexpected technical issues, advising can turn into a complete headache even in the best of circumstances.

It’s going to take more than just hiring more advisors to fix this system; advising is fundamentally broken in many ways. Students deserve real support, and the process of building that kind of support is not going to be an easy one.

At the same time, though, isn’t that what we were promised when we first stepped foot at this university? College can be the pathway for so many to escape difficult financial or social environments, but you can’t fly high without a little help.

A good advisor can be a complete godsend, but there’s quite simply not enough of them. If the University doesn’t seriously consider how and why advising falls short, they’re at risk of killing dreams before they even get started.

Malachi Key is a Journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected].

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