College of Arts & Sciences

College of Arts & Sciences

From Lone Rangers to Powerful Allies

Advisers are pros at networking with faculty, students, and alumni. But there was a time when they had trouble networking even among themselves.

Cynthia Caci remembers when advisers worked in isolation, unaware that peers across the College were tackling similar challenges. “People would have personal relationships with other advisers,” says Caci, assistant director for academic services in Digital Arts and Experimental Media, “but it wasn’t about supporting each other professionally. Even the concept of what the College was, as an entity, was really unapparent.”

  Mike Etnier kneels at the edge of a pit being excavated.
  Members of the College Advisory Committee on Advising and Student Services include (from left) Judi
Clark, Melissa Wensel, Cynthia Caci, Brooke Miller, Lani Stone, Carrie Perrin, Paul LePore, Kevin Mihata, and
Jim Donnen. Photo by Mary Levin.

About two years ago, a handful of Arts and Sciences advisers began meeting informally to share ideas. Eventually they approached Paul LePore, assistant dean for educational programs, who suggested creating a formal advisory group to the dean.

The College Advisory Committee on Advising and Student Services (CACASS) began meeting regularly in 2006. Eight advisers, two from each of the College’s four divisions, now meet weekly with LePore, sharing information about enrollments and department concerns. For his part, LePore keeps the advisers in the loop as decisions are made at the College level that might impact their units. CACASS representatives then share the information with the remaining advisers in their division.

“Having this connection with other advisers has made the job so much more engaging for us, who had been lone rangers in our departments,” says Judi Clark, a CACASS member and director of academic advising and student services for the School of Art. “Now we are able to share ideas, best practices, resources, and excitement about the job. That has made things better for our students as well.”

One thing the group realized early on: students don’t think in terms of departments. A student interested in the arts may take classes in art, architecture, creative writing, music, and drama. “We saw that it made sense for departments with an arts emphasis to work together to help students understand what’s available,” says Clark.

Advisers Judi Clark and Cynthia Caci (seated, left to right) discuss the ArtsLink website with ArtsLink Program Coordinator Liz Copland (with scarf) and students (from left) Allison Urban, Jessica Frederick, and Ryan Irilli. Photo by Mary Levin.  

That idea led to ArtsLink, an “affinity group” that spans departments and even colleges. ArtsLink’s activities range from presenting a session at new student orientation to publishing a blog about arts at the UW, written by and for students. A student advisory board plans other Arts-Link activities, including the Parnassus Emerging Artist Series, which presents student poetry, film, music, dance, and other creative work. (Visit ArtsLink's website at http://depts.washington.edu/artsl/ for more information.)

With ArtsLink’s success, CACASS is planning to expand the idea of affinity groups to the social sciences. (Units with an environmental emphasis have been meeting as the Environmental Advisory Group for years.) It all gets back to the advisers’ desire to help students make the most of their time at the UW.

“Advisers help students not just attend the University but be part of a larger endeavor of learning,” says LePore. “They bring to their work a deep and meaningful understanding of what a liberal arts education can provide.”

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A&S Advisers: Connecting Students to
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