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University honors departments' student-advising programs

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 06 - October 2, 1997

The Virginia Tech departments of mining and minerals engineering (MINE), animal and poultry sciences, and agricultural and applied economics (AgEcon) have been selected as University Exemplary Departments for 1997.
Ron Daniel, associate provost for undergraduate programs, said the three departments were chosen for their work in developing and sustaining innovative and effective approaches to undergraduate and graduate student advising.
The Exemplary Departments Awards Program was established by the Office of the Provost in 1994 to recognize departments and programs that maintain exceptional teaching and learning environments for students and faculty members.
The awards were presented at a reception hosted by President Paul Torgersen and Provost Peggy Meszaros last week.
The Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering has an enrollment of approximately 110 undergraduate and 25 graduate students. Career advising and placement by the department is so effective that 100 percent of its graduating seniors have been placed in mining-engineering jobs for the last seven years. Department head Michael Karmis estimated that he and faculty members spent an estimated 15-20 percent of their time on career placement.
MINE is consistently rated among the best in the university in academic and career advising based on the annual university-wide survey of graduating seniors, and MINE enrollment has more than doubled in the past three years.
The Department of Animal and Poultry Science has experienced a 50-percent increase in undergraduate-student enrollment in the past two years. All new students in the department are required to take ALS 1504, Survey to Animal and Poultry Science, during which they identify their areas of interest and are given the opportunity to select a permanent advisor. To help students graduate in a timely manner, the department's central advising office completes a graduation analysis for every student during his or her junior year. Also, students are required to take a junior-level seminar designed to help them develop skills necessary for a job search.
All seniors meet individually with the department head during their final semester to discuss their perceptions of the department's strengths and weaknesses in various programs, including advising. Department Head Gary Minish said seniors consistently gave superior ratings to the quality of academic advising within the department.
The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics has several innovative approaches to advising. One is offering two group-advising nights during each course-selection period. The department has also begun offering a fall alumni reception at the home of a faculty member to initiate feedback about the department and its programs.
In the annual senior exit interview, AgEcon's average consistently exceeds both the college and university averages in questions regarding advising. In a recent alumni survey, 84 percent of respondents rated the department's undergraduate advising as excellent or good. Furthermore, Department Head Lester Myers reported during the past 15 years more than half of the department's graduate students obtained academic positions at other universities, and almost all obtained employment in their field within six months of graduation.
"With these awards, we publicly honor the efforts and successes of groups of dedicated colleagues," Meszaros said. "The recipients are actively performing advising work that is essential for sustaining a truly excellent academic environment."