As GSAS alumni, you are, I know, keenly aware of the importance of effective advising and its centrality to the successful completion of a graduate student’s education. A positive experience can lead to meaningful lifelong professional and personal connections. But not feeling supported by an advisor or empowered in conducting research can contribute to a host of negative effects for the student, including loss of momentum, lack of progress toward the degree, stress, and mental health issues. While GSAS surveys have shown that a majority of students are satisfied with their advising, a troubling—and consistent—number are not.

Dean Emma Dean
Dean Emma Dench

During my first year as dean, I began looking into our advising partnerships and quickly realized that if I wanted to truly understand the full advising landscape, I would need to investigate more deeply and engage with individuals beyond those in the traditional advisee-advisor roles. With that in mind, GSAS has launched The Advising Project, focused on improving the advising experience of all students. Over the next two years, The Advising Project will evaluate what constitutes effective advising and celebrate the many remarkable examples that we know exist, compile a collection of best practices, and disseminate information about how students, faculty, and other partners can work together to enhance the advising experience with an eye to effecting lasting institutional change.

In the first year, I want to ask questions of everyone whose experience touches advising: What do we know about the current state of graduate student advising at Harvard? What does effective advising look like? What gets in the way? How can we make effective advising the norm? Using information gathered from these conversations, the project will determine how to disseminate the lessons learned and ensure that effective advising is a priority in all GSAS programs.

Alumni input will be important as we begin our work, so much so that the Engage question in the winter 2020 issue of Colloquy is focused on advising. GSAS will also email you with project information that will include opportunities to share your thoughts. I hope that you will engage with us as we move forward with this important project.

Emma Dench

Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics

Greeting: The Advising Project