Whenever I ask students what they would like to see improved at MIT, advising is very often at the top of the list. What I hear from undergraduates is that they are looking for more consistent and frequent interaction with their advisors. Freshmen want someone who will help them navigate MIT and explore areas of academic and personal interest. Upperclassmen want someone who will provide effective academic advising in the context of career and personal development opportunities. At the same time, students are looking to make real connections and develop mentoring relationships, especially with faculty. They want to get to know faculty outside the classroom and gain their insight and advice.
Undergraduate survey data tells the same story. Last year, 56% of seniors were satisfied with freshman advising and 69% with advising in their major*. There are certainly many great advisors but there is clearly room for improvement. At the same time, 80% of undergraduates said that they want more interaction with faculty.** Relative to peer schools, MIT undergraduates report spending less time in intellectual discussions with faculty outside the classroom.** The challenge is that faculty have more demands on their time than ever before. We need to find ways to help faculty connect with students in meaningful mentoring relationships.
This fall, the topic of improving undergraduate advising and mentoring has become a focal point of discussions among faculty and staff involved in defining and supporting the advising system at MIT.
Ultimately, the goal is to evolve the advising system into a web of support for students and facilitate more student/faculty connections beyond the classroom. While much has been done, more remains to be done. I wanted you to know that advising and mentoring are a priority and I expect to see some of the ideas under discussion evolve into specific plans that will piloted in the next academic year. Undergraduate students will continue to be involved through the CUP and through the Student Advisory Committee to the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP).
Graduate students are also looking for more consistent and frequent interaction with their advisors. They want holistic mentoring and advising beyond academics, technical and research skills to personal and professional development and specific career advice. They also want mentoring outside of their thesis advisor through a network of advisors. The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC) have collaboratively supported a number of initiatives which serve to enhance mentoring and advising and have created more opportunities for faculty/student interaction. Two years ago, ODGE and the GSC co-sponsored a comprehensive advising survey. The survey results identified three key determinants of the quality of advising; agreed-upon clear milestones, deadlines, and performance and progress feedback. The results have been discussed with a number of departments, several of which are implementing recommended best practices. The ODGE is currently aggregating data from numerous student surveys to obtain a more complete picture of graduate advising at MIT and inform future initiatives.
MIT is committed to improving the advising and mentoring experience for all our students. We welcome your ideas, which you can send to email@example.com. Good luck as you complete the semester.
Dean for Undergraduate Education
Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Some helpful links on Advising and Mentoring:
OME Mentor Advocate Partnership
Matches first-year students with faculty and staff mentors
OME Laureates and Leaders
Connects students interested in pursuing a graduate degree to faculty mentors
Graduate Women in Physics
Mentoring of physics undergrads by graduate students
GWAMIT Mentoring Program
Connects graduate women with successful women professors and alumni
GSC International Student Mentorship Program
Helps incoming graduate students transition to graduate student life at MIT
MIT Venture Mentoring Service
Matches prospective MIT entrepreneurs (including students) with volunteer mentors
Science Mentoring Research
Research and guidance on mentoring in STEM field
The MIT student life and learning digest presents topics and useful Institute resources with strong student interest. Students receive it monthly throughout the academic year.