I once asked for input from this community about how people explained their roles to those unfamiliar with the world of automated advising and graduation auditing. The most memorable lines came from someone’s job description: “Provide feedback to Deans and Chairs regarding inconsistencies and/or lack of clarity in statements of program requirements which result in an inability to code them into the audit. Assist them with imposing logic into those statements.” In fact, it made me laugh out loud, so neatly did those 37 words highlight one of the major challenges of what we do.
We work amidst a swirl of oxymorons. We aim to provide a multitude of options and pathways, but within strict parameters: we enforce ‘flexible rules’. If there is a special circumstance, we must be ready to apply ‘the regular exception’. I remember once looking at a proposal for an ‘interdisciplinary concentration’, the very concept of which made my head spin.
Delivering detailed and infallible advising reports which account for all the contradictions and complications of 21st century academic life is a HARD JOB. Then juxtapose this work against the ever-rising expectations for a fast, streamlined interface from users who have never known a world without Google or Amazon. The result is an ongoing struggle to answer the following questions: “Why can’t the system just give us the best answer every time?”, and “Why is this report so long?” We walk the sharp edge of a twisted 80-20 rule*. We build rules which work for 80% of the people, 80% of the time, but 80% of our effort is used trying to accommodate the remaining 20%.
At least we have each other to commiserate with, and to share our flashes of brilliance when we do figure out a way to reconcile curriculum and logic in a way that will ultimately help our students achieve their goals. I am thankful to be part of our very helpful and supportive Academic Advising Community.
*The Pareto Principle: 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.