Since its launch, The Advising Project has engaged in conversations with students, faculty, and administrators across programs about what constitutes effective advising and has reviewed recommendations from academic literature and research on advising. Below are five best practices that faculty, students, and graduate programs should enact to enhance the advising experience.
No one expects an advisor to be an expert on every subject, but advisors are expected to act as an effective guide, directing their advisees to other resources as appropriate. Advisees, similarly, should not expect a single advisor to guide them equally well on all of their concerns and should develop a strong network of support.
Create a Respectful and Inclusive Environment
Graduate programs and research groups should promote a climate where all students and faculty can thrive. This means creating an environment where members are supported and feel a sense of belonging. Faculty should be especially sensitive to power dynamics and should provide support to advisees as developing scholars and unique individuals. Graduate students should be similarly aware of the power dynamics in their roles as teaching fellows or mentors to other students.
Clearly Communicate Expectations
Students and advisors should engage in transparent, recurring conversations about expectations and outline mutual expectations in areas that include frequency of meetings, communication preferences, and response times for written feedback. Oral or written agreements of mutual expectations should be used to make hidden expectations explicit, thereby limiting assumptions that could derail the advising relationship (see examples in the Resources section).
Milestones should be clearly communicated and included in program materials. Progress towards the degree should be regularly reviewed.
Engage Multiple Mentors
In addition to the primary advisor, students at all stages of their graduate career should be supported by an advising village that includes multiple mentors. Faculty and staff should support students in identifying additional mentors to meet their academic and professional goals such as secondary advisors, committee members, directors of graduate studies, or other staff members. All students, faculty, and staff should be aware of and encouraged to use GSAS and University resources.
Promote Professional Development
Students should be provided with the support and tools needed to develop the skills required to successfully navigate their graduate careers and to prepare them for their chosen profession. Faculty and staff should support career exploration and identification of relevant career resources.
All members of the community should foster an environment that encourages appropriate care for each individual’s mental and physical health. Faculty should engage in active listening, keeping in mind that many students have expressed that they are not comfortable opening up about their challenges. Advising can encompass a range of conversations, and although not every advisor will feel able to talk in detail about every issue, they should be responsive when an advisee expresses a need for support in the areas of mental or physical health. GSAS and University resources can help.