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Sage advice

Humanities Academic Services Center provides undergraduates with a central source of advising

Story by
Carin Moonin
June 2020

At the UW, advising forms a crucial part of the undergraduate experience. Advisors help students plan out their majors and course schedules, as well as work with them to direct their academic and personal goals. Having a stable, productive advising process benefits the student throughout their time in college.

That’s why starting July 1, the UW Humanities Division will consolidate advising programs to run through a single space: the Humanities Academic Services (HAS) center.

HAS will aim to provide a consistent, unified experience, ensuring all students interested in the humanities will have access to supportive, knowledgeable, and professional advising. The reorganization includes advisors that serve the 12 academic units within the Humanities Division, including Asian Languages & Literature; Cinema & Media Studies; Classics; Comparative History of Ideas (primary advising will remain within the Department); English; French & Italian Studies; Germanics; Linguistics; Near Eastern Languages & Civilization; Scandinavian Studies; Slavic Languages & Literatures; and Spanish & Portuguese Studies.

Prior to the formation of the HAS, students would access advising services through individual departments, which meant that their experiences might vary. Some departments, such as Linguistics or Cinema & Media Studies, shared advisers or had part-time staff; other larger departments, such as English, had more robust staffing, with several full-time advisors.

Staffed by a six-person team—an advising director, three advisors, an associate director, and a program coordinator— HAS will serve students on a 12-month schedule, as opposed to the previous structure which only provided services during the academic year. Extending the coverage to year-round positions will ensure students are accommodated for—even if they have needs that occur during the summer months.

Having one advising resource for humanities means the team can embrace a holistic advising philosophy, including connecting students with funding, research, and study abroad options they might not have known about if they only stayed within their department, says John Charlton, the director of academic services for UW’s Humanities division and head of HAS. Not only does this advice apply to humanities majors, but it is also available for students from across the university seeking opportunities the division can offer.

“The humanities are needed in every program: Even in STEM fields, you’d still want to integrate the humanities. For example, you’d still need to train artificial intelligence in the nuances of linguistics, ethics, and human nature,” he says. “Working with different, interdisciplinary groups can connect all the different chapters of the student experience.”

He continues, “We are excited to help students understand what’s out there and the specific steps they need to take to go after those opportunities. And with the HASC, when students in the humanities go to dedicated offices like career services, they will know more about their options and will be better prepared and informed.”

“Working with different, interdisciplinary groups can connect all the different chapters of the student experience.”

In addition to Charlton, the staff at the HASC includes:

  • Kamryn Kurtzner, academic counselor
  • Giovanni Milan, academic counselor
  • Nancy Sisko, associate director
  • Sabrina Tatta, academic counselor, advising lead

The new department will also serve as a hub for communications and collaboration, says Charlton. The HASC will keep the various departments within the division informed on what the others are doing and serve as a larger voice for the humanities at the university.

“We can, as a centralized office, speak to prospective or current students and tell them about the opportunities they could explore. Because we are a divisional office, we can also engage other divisions or units at the campus level and help them keep humanities in mind when talking to their students,” Charlton explains.

Although the July 1 launch date for HAS was set before COVID-19 shut down in-person campus activities, the center is still forging ahead—though things will, admittedly, look a little different than originally intended.

“Advising changed over spring quarter,” Charlton says. “But it accelerated what was already happening. In 2012, you might have had people feel odd about using a webcam to have a meeting, but now it’s natural. We are now realizing we don’t have to hold to the traditional 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. model to meet with students. We can provide students with options according to their schedules. We’ll be flexible. We’ll be creative. We’re only limited by our capacity for innovation.”

Brian Reed, Divisional Dean for Humanities at the UW, is eager to launch HAS and bring centralized, comprehensive advising to students. “John and the team are first-rate. I can’t speak highly enough about them. This is a chance to bring together a stellar team of advisors and provide them with the resources to help undergraduates expand and grow. It’s a chance to work with some really great students,” he says.

For more information, visit the Humanities Academic Services Center website.