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Updated CS advising options stir mixed reactions

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Henry Loomis

This week, 70 2nd-year intended computer science majors received assignments to their new advisors. This year, nine options were available to students — a list that included pre-tenure, retired and non-computer science faculty, and even a non-faculty department member.

Ellie Seehorn `25, a computer science Student Educational Policy Committee member, explained that while students declaring most other majors directly ask professors to be their advisors, computer science majors-to-be fill out an adviser preference form to rank all available options. An algorithm is then run to match advisers with advisees based on their rankings. 

“Very CS,” she said.

According to Seehorn, the assignment process ensured students were spread evenly among faculty, particularly important in a large department where not all faculty are equally popular.

“My adviser primarily teaches 300-level courses,“ Seehorn said. “A lot of people wouldn’t even know her … but she’s an awesome adviser.”

Aside from tenured faculty, this year’s list included Leah Perlmutter, first-year assistant professor, Liz Rodrigues, associate professor of Humanities, and Professor Emeritus Henry Walker, digital scholarship librarian who currently lives and teaches in California and advises online. Sarah Dahlby Albright, a peer education coordinator, is another non-faculty option for double majors who already have another faculty advisor.

Jayson Krunkel `26 was assigned Rodrigues, who he had ranked first on the adviser preference form.

“She does a lot with figuring out how to overlap very different interests, so I thought that would be a really good choice for me,” said Krunkel, who intends to declare majors in computer science and anthropology, as well as a digital studies concentration. “She could be my CS adviser and my digital studies adviser.”

Jinny Eo `26, who is considering declaring a second major in philosophy, also ranked Rodrigues as first choice for her interdisciplinary background. She added that a good “personal impression” had been a primary factor in her rankings — “Some advising styles I didn’t really want to have … so I just eliminated those.”

Rodrigues said she had been brought onto the advising team after she began teaching CSC-105: The Digital Age, a computer science course for non-intended majors. To her, the department has been very deliberate in “teaching for inclusion to the greatest extent possible.” 

“They thought about putting me on the list for a very long time because they had talked to me about it,” she said. “But it was still a couple more years before I actually started.”

Charlie Curtsinger, associate professor and department chair, said the advisers, with their range of backgrounds, “bring something different” to the process. As a tenured professor, he said he takes on 20-25 advisees yearly, and personally enjoys group advising — not just to manage those numbers, but because “students often have good ideas for each other.”

On the other hand, Curtsinger continued, students could pick Dahlby Albright for “the math and education in her background,” while Walker, who helped found the major at Grinnell, “has a perspective on the department nobody else has.”

However, Curtsinger added, “It’s also what allows us to not have 35 advisees each.” 

To further reduce the workload on advisers, intended majors are only allowed to declare in the spring of their second year — a restriction not applied in other departments.

Seehorn said this long wait was “the only thing I’ve heard people don’t like about this system.”

As for Krunkel, the two-week window between receiving one’s adviser assignment and the deadline for the major declaration form was too short. “I wish they started this process a little earlier, so that we have more time to talk to our advisers and figure things out.” 

Rodrigues said she thinks the department has “grappled carefully” with balancing the numbers of advisors and students. 

“They’ve been looking to bring people into the advising process to make sure students stay connected with the resources,” she said.

While Curtsinger acknowledged it was not ideal for advisors to have to split their attention across so many advisees, he said it was better than “not letting a student pursue the area that they care about.” He emphasized that the goal of the computer science department is to continue ensuring all potential majors can take the classes they need.

“We’re not that far away from the time when departments ask to be able to hire more faculty,” he said. “We will be asking to hire more.” 

Although the department has had to change their advising process to cope with rising demands, Curtsinger said they were still trying to maintain a system that preserves as much of the original experience as possible.

“We tweak it a bit every year,” he said. “But the goal is to just do something that we can make work as well as possible while still keeping the spirit of how advising works.”

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About the Contributors
Natalie Ng, Staff Writer
Natalie is a first-year from Singapore who intends to major in anthropology and biology. She never suffers from jet lag because her sleep schedule is messed up in all timezones. Once, she rolled down a hill and survived.
Henry Loomis, Graphic Designer
Henry Loomis is a second-year studio art major from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  He loves books, trees, the artist Ellen Gallagher, movies, but especially queer films involving the ocean, and grows more obsessed with Joanna Newsom every day (the songs seem long, but he promises they’re engaging).
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