Students, ASWC seek additional graduate school advising from Whitman

Galen Bernard

Credit: Sloane
Credit: Sloane

Seniors applying to graduate schools and juniors beginning to consider their options have discovered that Whitman provides limited support for students trying to determine which school has the research focus and personality to be a fit, or whether to go at all.

“I don’t even know why you’d go to grad school but I know you have to go to grad school,” said junior environmental studies-politics major Ari Frink.

Student Engagement Center Director Susan Buchanan acknowledges that finding a match is crucial to success in graduate school.

“Even if you get into Harvard, if they don’t have the focus you want it won’t be a good experience,” she said.

According to its Web site, the Student Engagement Center offers “graduate school exploration.” The links on its Web site and the books available in the center advise students on the graduate school application process, from the admission essay to entrance exams.

Yet Buchanan said that the center’s resources are of limited help to students trying to determine which school will be a good fit.

“It doesn’t tell you anything,” she said of the Princeton Review’s Gourman Report of Graduate Programs, a book that ranks graduate schools by academic program.

The center often directs students to contact professors in their area of interest.

“Faculty are actually the best resources we have for good information,” Buchanan said. She also recommends using the center to locate alumni who have completed the degree a student wants to study.

Senior Jordan Clark, chair of ASWC’s Student Affairs Committee, said ASWC has received many comments from students seeking more support from the school.

“It’s rare that we get something so consistently from students so we’re definitely going to take it seriously,” he said. He said next semester he intends to have an ASWC senator look into “how advising works, if it’s adequate, and what more we can do.”

He hopes to prepare something based on the results of that report to pitch to the Board of Trustees’ Student Affairs Committee, on which he and senior ASWC President Nadim Damluji sit, at its next meeting in May.

While he acknowledged that current budget limitations meant the Student Engagement Center could not be expected to provide a person whose sole task would be to advise students on graduate school selection, ensuring that at least one person on staff gave increased attention to advising could be a good compromise.

“I imagine if there was a student push the Student Engagement Center could shift responsibilities to have a person fit that description more,” said Clark.

Buchanan welcomed the idea of a staff member assigned to help students find a good graduate school fit, while noting that she thinks the center does a good job assisting students given its current financial resources.

“I think it would be wonderful to have a go-to person on campus,” Buchanan said.