One thing about departmental advisors is you probably didn’t know they existed. Or at least they probably aren’t the first ones you think of when you’re in need of help. However, in reality, departmental advisors are basically your safety net.
We’ve all fallen victim to the confusing and labyrinthine puzzle of program requirements at least once. Ryan MacKay, the departmental administrator for Law and Legal Studies, says advisors are there to ensure that students can successfully navigate their program until completion. They can help with most things from course planning to clarifying questions about sequencing courses, prerequisites and minimum grade requirements for graduating, MacKay says.
“We provide an atmosphere of trust so students are able to talk freely about their situation in confidentiality,” adds Anne Bowker, the undergraduate chair of the Department of Psychology. She strongly recommends that students visit the department at least once a year to make sure they are meeting all program requirements.
Whether you’re in need of good old academic advising, which is their most used feature, or understanding an audit “and the intricacies of the degree requirement,” as MacKay put it, getting answers and confirmation from departmental advisors will definitely help you sleep a little easier at night.
“There is more to university life than just straight-forward academics,” he adds. “Sometimes students need a little extra assistance and they just don’t know where to begin. The departmental advisor can be the first point of contact.”
Advisors can refer students to such services including Health and Counselling, the Paul Menton Centre, Student Accounts and the Awards Office.
In fact, many of the departmental advisors are also Carleton alumni.
“They’ve been through the same challenges and rewards that the current student body is going through,” MacKay says. “Sometimes it can make a real difference to a student to hear the experiences of someone who knows exactly what they’re facing.”
So on top of answering questions about your academic life, departmental advisors can also help guide and offer support on a more personal level. Furthermore, they possess a wealth of knowledge about campus life in general.
“They’re plugged into the happenings on campus,” says MacKay, “so students shouldn’t be afraid to ask them questions that go beyond academics.”
While Bowker says that departmental advisors are particularly helpful for department-specific information, MacKay adds that “a student can never go wrong by seeing [a departmental or academic advisor].” He does agree that the former is better versed in the specifics of their unit – they control access to the courses and have better knowledge of their faculty.
All in all, the one thing to keep in mind is that any and all advisors on campus are there – and are eager – to help you to the best of their abilities. For more information, go to the departmental advisor contact listing or contact the Academic Advising Centre.
By Bianca Chan