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advisor #3

Well, my final fall semester at the seminary has begun, and it feels like I’m not really doing anything. And that is an accurate statement, because I’m actually not doing anything… yet. I begin CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education, like a pastoral practicum in a hospital setting) next Wednesday, and I have one distance class but haven’t received the materials for it yet.

On the other hand, things have gotten interesting again at the seminary. What with new faculty hires and other changes in faculty responsibilities, the seminary has reshuffled all of us students under our academic advisors.


This is my fifth year at the seminary, and now, with this fall’s reorganization, I am on my third academic advisor. And the amazing thing is that my two previous academic advisors are still full-time faculty members in some sort of advising role!

When I was a student at Taylor, I had a total of two advisors. The only reason I had more than one was because I changed departments – from computer science to mathematics. And when I landed in the math department, my advisor stayed my advisor throughout my college experience. And the neat thing was that he took interest in my life. He wanted to know how I was doing outside the classroom, how my family was doing, how my hopes and dreams for the future were shaping up into realities. He cared about my spiritual health, my physical health, and my academic health – usually in that order. I really appreciated his influence in my life during those few years.

It hasn’t been that way here at the seminary, strictly speaking. Each of my previous advisors have cared about me in all of my dimensions, to be sure. But something has been different during this degree program. The relationships I have with these men and women are built not on our advisor-advisee relations but rather on our classroom and chapel experiences. In fact, from my perspective, the advising process at the seminary is simply about getting the class registration form signed so I can take my classes. I remember one semester my advisor (#1) was out of the country on vacation, so my dad signed my form instead.

And now that I have a third academic advisor, I honestly don’t care. I have already signed up for next spring, my final semester of classes. There is no need for me to ever have an advising conversation with my new advisor. And I don’t anticipate my relationship with her – which, again, has been built around classroom and chapel (and other) experiences – changing, growing, or developing in any way because of this new organizational structure.

So here’s the question: What are academic advisors all about, anyway? And here’s the other question: How do we prevent students from being dropped through the advising cracks as they get shifted from one advisor to another (to another)? Or, stated differently, how can we help students maintain strong advising relationships (like I experienced at Taylor) when personnel changes necessitate advisor changes?

One Response to “advisor #3”

  1. James Lewis Says:

    David, as one of those advisors, I have to thank you although it hurts. Too often our lives are a bundle of busyness, where we often neglect to live out our stated convictions. For that I really apologize for my part in making your experience at the SOT less enriching than it deserved to be. I will say this now, but certainly face to face: No excuses offered. Will you forgive me, my brother?

    There is a lot of reshuffling, but I hope that your truthful insights might remind us of those critical dimensions of seminary life. David, I have no doubt that in your ministry, you will exceed me [us] in many ways–and that’s a good thing.

    I am glad the faculty was directed to your blog, or otherwise I — for one — would be blind to the elephant in the room. I do pray that your continuing ministry will be fruitful and that the use of your gifts will multiply.

    Dr. J

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