MIT faculty share best practices in graduate student advising

August 17, 2015


On May 7, in a discussion open to the entire MIT community, a panel of seven faculty members from across the Institute came together to share their insights on the topic of graduate student advising. In response, a new pamphlet, “Best Practices in Graduate Student Advising,” evolved, and is now available by request to members of the MIT community. The initial event was organized by the Office for the Dean of Graduate Education (ODGE) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC), as part of their Advising Initiative, to provide a rare opportunity for cross-department dialogue on advising between MIT’s various schools.

In discussing how students should voice their concerns about the advising relationship, panelists offered advice to the faculty. Entering an advisor’s office is inherently intimidating for students, Randall Davis, professor of electrical engineering and computer science explained, and faculty needed to remind themselves of that when listening to the concerns of advisees. After having a discussion with a student about the advising relationship, or after offering any advice, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, Kay Tye recommended that advisors ask for feedback from students on their own performance in advising. But when evaluating anyone’s actions, Davis reminded the audience to “assume incompetence before malevolence.” Professors and students are both burdened by obligations and proliferating piles of unread emails. Students were then reminded of the importance of not allowing problems to fester, and of providing advisors with advance notice about additional time commitments.

The content of the brochure is now offered on the ODGE website as printable 8.5″ x 11″ documents, under “Student and Faculty” and “Institute” roles. Those interested in the printed “Best Practices” pamphlet should contact Sarah Goodman or visit the ODGE headquarters in MIT Building 3-138. Read the whole article on the panel event at the MIT News Office

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