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New director seeks to strengthen undergraduate advising

Lori White began her duties as director of undergraduate advising at Stanford last month with a mandate to strengthen advising in the dormitories and academic departments.

Her position was created as part of a series of changes recommended last spring to improve the undergraduate advising system. She is responsible for overseeing the Undergraduate Advising Center and developing outreach programs to strengthen advising across the university.

"Traditionally, the Undergraduate Advising Center has served as a place where students drop in, and that certainly has worked well," said Ramon Saldivar, vice provost for undergraduate education, who led a task force on restructuring the advising system. "But what I would like to see happening is for staff, faculty and students to see advising embedded in many other things that we do outside of formal advising situations."

Several of the task force's suggestions to improve advising at Stanford have been implemented this year. The center has introduced e-mail and telephone advising hotlines and held a training session to bring advisers up to speed on recent changes in the curriculum. In addition, each dorm has been teamed up with a professional adviser from the the advising center for extra support.

But there is still much progress to be made, Saldivar said.

Although White has been at Stanford for less than a month, she said her priorities are clear: "I want to ensure that undergraduate advising is closely connected to the academic enterprise; I want to make sure we can maximize the quality of faculty interaction with students, particularly with respect to frosh advising; and I want to continue to enhance the Undergraduate Advising Center's role as an academic safety net for students on campus."

She said that she believes faculty and staff need to do a better job of scaling down the campus for students so that they can get the benefit of a small college experience while taking advantage of Stanford's vast resources.

"Advising is really the first point in which students connect themselves to an individual on campus to talk about who they are, what they want to do with their lives, and how they can get there," she said. "I believe we can use the advising experience as a lever to begin to create that small college experience."

Formerly the director of student programs at Georgetown University, White has worked in higher education for now than 16 years. She was director of the Cross-Cultural Center at the University of California-Irvine and was an assistant dean of students at that school. She also has served as a consultant to the California state legislature's Committee on Higher Education and as a special assistant to the University of California, Office of the President.

In addition to her responsibilities as director of undergraduate advising at Stanford, White also holds a part-time lectureship in the School of Education, where she will teach classes in higher education and issues related to undergraduate advising.

A native of San Francisco, she received her bachelor's degree in psychology and English from the University of California-Berkeley and her Ph.D. in education policy from Stanford. Her dissertation focused on the experiences and identity development of African American students in higher education. She currently is editing a book on the role of higher education in school reform.



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