MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVII No. 5
May/June 2005
Provost Responds to
Professor Postol's Allegations
International Students and Scholars:
A Legacy for MIT and the U.S.
Lorna Gibson New Chair of the Faculty
Back to the Future
Academic Expectations
Strengthening TA Training
Faculty Mentor Program:
A Growing Success
Advising and Mentoring of Undergraduates
Mission to Banda Aceh:
Excerpts from a Journal
Summer Without Summering;
Slave Huts, Bonaire
The Purpose of Poetry
Survey Says:
Faculty Approve of Updated Lunch Program
Alumni Attitudes and Involvement
Tenure and Promotion
[from the 2004 Faculty Survey]
Have you ever considered leaving MIT? [from the 2004 Faculty Survey]
Printable Version

Advising and Mentoring of Undergraduates

J. Mark Schuster and Hazel Sive

To get the most from their experiences at MIT, students rely on faculty, staff, and peers for guidance on issues ranging from academics to personal development. In recognition of the importance of providing good guidance, the Institute faculty requested (at its meeting of May 15, 2002) that the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) and the Committee on Student Life (CSL) undertake a joint effort to consider upperclass undergraduate advising and mentoring at MIT and to make recommendations to the faculty. The results of this joint effort are outlined in a report, which can be found online at:

Principles and Recommendations

We quickly realized that, tempting though it is, we cannot simply exhort the faculty to commit more time to advising and mentoring. We are all busy people with multiple and conflicting commitments. Accordingly, our report is built around two principles:

  • Advising and mentoring constitute a continuum of interactions among everyone on campus: faculty, university administration, staff, athletic coaches, activity advisors, and students themselves.
  • Effective advising and mentoring involves creating a mentoring network for each student.

Informed by these principles, the two committees have focused on making concrete recommendations that would improve the quality of faculty-student interaction, rather than simply adding more meetings.

It should be emphasized that presently there are some excellent upperclass advising practices at MIT, but advising quality across the Institute is variable and, overall, could be significantly strengthened.

The CUP/CSL report lays out broad principles for advising and mentoring, and discusses the roles of faculty in these activities. Recommendations made focus on strengthening the framework that underlies effective advising, including improving departmental support, expanding the program of associate advising, improving advisor training, restructuring registration activities, and smoothing the transition between freshman and departmental advising. (Click here for a sample of the recommendations that have been made.)

Among the activities that help us to provide a truly exceptional academic experience for our students are those that incorporate out-of-classroom interaction with others in the university community  - particularly faculty. The promotion of a network that includes staff and students notwithstanding, the faculty plays a critical role in advising and mentoring. These activities are fundamental to MIT's educational mission, and we must recognize and reward these activities accordingly. With this report, CUP and CSL hope to highlight conspicuously effective current initiatives and to stimulate changes that will allow best practices to proliferate across the undergraduate programs.

Next Steps

The final version of this report has received the endorsement of the current memberships of both the CUP and CSL. With the Committees' endorsement, the report has been presented to Academic Council, to the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons, to the Undergraduate Academic Officers, and to the Faculty Policy Committee, which has given its endorsement. The full report was presented to the faculty at the May 18, 2005 meeting. We invite your response to the recommendations of the report and would be particularly interested in hearing about your own advising experiences - good or bad. You can contact us at: and

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