In response to student concerns over the past several years, the Office for Undergraduate Education made the transition from Freshmen Advising and Mentoring at Emory (FAME) to Pre-Major Advising Connections at Emory (PACE).
Created about a decade ago, FAME was designed as a pre-major advising initiative for freshmen that served an average of 18 students per group, led by a faculty adviser and one or two student advisers. Until a student declared a major, the faculty adviser remained the student’s academic mentor. Because each FAME group was large and formed randomly, faculty members were not able to get to know their students and could not always answer questions regarding majors.
PACE has replaced FAME as the new first-year advising program, not only allowing for more individualized help but also more personalized advising. Freshmen are placed into groups based on major interests, and are paired with faculty and student advisers who share those interests.
There have been many changes, but there are still dissatisfied freshmen. College sophomore and PACE adviser Rafi Norberg said that in its early stages, PACE still has room for improvement. He said that the problem does not lie in the program itself, but rather in the way the program is executed.
The problems go back to the advisers, College junior and PACE adviser Michael Pi said. He said that some freshmen had poor experiences based on who their leaders were.
“One of the big things [PACE] didn’t do was interview advisers,” Pi said. “They just evaluated resumes; I feel like there need to be interviews because we need people who are active and who actually want to participate.”
Although there are still bumps to straighten out, PACE has been paving a smoother road from where FAME left off. According to College senior and PACE adviser Matthew Buendia, there were too many requirements in FAME and it did not serve students the way it needed to.
“It used to be hard to work with the faculty adviser, the student leader and about 20 [freshmen],” Buendia said. “PACE has a lot more individualized help and much more personal guidance from upperclassmen.”
Now, there are about 12 students in each group. This makes one-on-one time possible between faculty, freshmen and PACE advisers, which Norberg said is helpful especially since students are no longer grouped randomly. Instead, Buendia said, freshmen are grouped through a system where students select three of their top majors. They are then paired with other compatible freshmen and mentors, he said.
College senior and PACE Peer Adviser Captain Walter Ecton said in a previous interview with the Wheel
that faculty members would be more comfortable working with students who are interested in their respective fields, and Buendia said that it did become clear that faculty advisers enjoyed the new system better. According to Norberg, in the past, a student who was interested in medicine might be paired with an English professor, which made for an inefficient advising program.
Another pressing problem with FAME was the redundancy of weekly meetings, according to College junior and PACE Peer Adviser Captain Shifali Baliga in a previous interview with the Wheel
. She said that these mandatory meetings were cut because they did not interest freshmen. Instead, student advisers will use their own time to keep in touch with their mentees.
“It’s us calling the freshmen in rather than the class calling them in,” Pi said.
Pi said that this was imperative to the one-on-one culture of the new program because it allowed both advisers and freshmen to feel comfortable enough to call one another to meet personally.
PACE is no longer listed on OPUS, but will still be a part of a student’s final transcript. In the past, FAME took priority on OPUS, which restricted freshmen from registering for certain classes. Because meetings were mandatory each week, it also limited freshmen from extracurricular activities that might take place during a meeting. These restrictions hindered students from taking classes or getting involved on campus, opposing FAME’s purpose of helping students excel. As a result, Buendia said that PACE doesn’t have a set schedule, and while there are requirements, students did not meet every week in a classroom setting.
With the more flexible schedule, freshmen can set up meetings with faculty advisers. PACE advisers were also able to sit down with their groups in computer labs to walk them through registering for classes on OPUS.
Despite the changes made in the transition from FAME to PACE, not all freshmen responded positively to the new program.
“It’s a little excessive,” College freshman Ankita Gupta said. “I think it’s a good way to meet people, but the mandatory meetings aren’t that helpful.”
She said that meeting with faculty advisers individually was beneficial, but that overall the program was “repetitive.”
College freshman Marissa Fine said that while it was easier to have a discussion with advisers, the program was not very helpful. She said that the mandatory meetings only reiterated information freshmen had already gotten over the summer.
For Gupta, it was also the timing of the program that made it inefficient. She said that she would have preferred time to settle in and see family for the last time before going to meetings around campus.
Overall, however, Pi said that PACE is a much better program than FAME.
“It was a lot more interactive and engaging,” Buendia said. “Freshmen know who to go to directly; it’s a lot more useful than FAME was.”
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