Recommendation #1 - Ensure that all pre-major students (i.e., students who have not yet declared a major) have a primary advisor whose principal responsibility is advising
1.1. Pre-major advisors:17 All schools should develop an advising model for pre-major students that relies on primary advisors whose principal responsibility is advising. This could take multiple forms, e.g., full-time staff, general faculty whose primary role is advising, or new models relying on individuals who may have split staff/faculty roles or practitioner/faculty/staff roles. However, it is imperative that personnel with split appointments spend the majority (i.e., at least 60% and ideally 75%) of their time on advising.
1.2. Expectations: Pre-major advisors will reside within schools and be students’ primary contact regarding any questions they have, academic or otherwise. This person’s role will include considerations related to course/major selection and degree progress, and, in a change, will also extend much beyond that to reflect a broader definition of advising, including co-curricular opportunities, career exploration, exposure to resources, and referral to services (see a discussion of learner-centered advising).18
The pre-major advisor should begin to formally engage with students starting in May (after students accept admission to the University). Pre-major advisors could remain with their advisees for four years or students could transition to another advisor after declaring a major. If there is a transition to a new advisor, after declaring the major, concerted effort should be made to facilitate a smooth transition, and the pre-major advisor should remain available to answer questions related to topics outside of the major even after students transition to their major advisors.
Moreover, when relevant, pre-major advisors will have specializations and be matched with students based on broad areas of interest (e.g., pre-health, pre-comm, natural sciences, arts/humanities, social sciences). Advisors should collaborate with other schools, career center, etc. to ensure effective advising of students who aim to transfer to other schools and/or are focused on specific areas such as pre-health.
1.3. Diversity: Concerted effort should be made to hire, retain and promote advisors who represent our student body along different sociodemographic characteristics (such as first-generation, gender, and under-represented racial/ethnic minority group members).
1.4. Training: Pre-major advisors should participate in extensive training that includes student development, cultural literacy, awareness of equity, access and achievement issues in higher education overall and at UVA specifically, knowledge specific to their school and disciplinary areas, knowledge of practices at other schools across the university, and knowledge of resources and services across the university (please see recommendation #3.5 as well as the assessment section).
1.5. Professional Development: Pre-major advisors should be offered professional development opportunities and have reasonable career progression options (e.g., in case of staff advising, career ladders including advisor, senior advisor, and supervisory advisor with an associated increase in pay and responsibility, such as conducting workshops, working with marginalized populations, etc.).
1.6. Evaluation: Pre-major advisors should be evaluated on an annual basis and their merit raises, bonuses, opportunities for promotion, etc. should reflect their performance as advisors.