Grinnell College offers you, as an individual, the opportunity to define the particulars of your educational experience. While each major course of study has set forth requirements that are viewed as essential for training in a particular mode of thought, an education in the liberal arts emphasizes several broad areas of study. Grinnell's open curriculum allows you to explore these areas of the liberal arts in ways that are suited to your intellectual development and educational objectives. The possibilities and choices are many. The goal of our advising partnership is to help you ask the questions of yourself that will allow you to create a truly liberal curriculum that maximizes the benefit and satisfaction of your Grinnell education.
Below are some questions you might want to ask of any potential adviser. This document contains my answers.

"What's the point of all this?"

The Office of Institutional Research reports that students' satisfaction, with their course of study is highly linked to the quality of their advising, even a decade after graduation.1 This partnership plan outlines goals, procedures, and responsibilities that will enhance the quality of advice and mentoring you can receive.
Our major objectives for the advising relationship include: While the college's open curriculum does not specify any particular requirements, the ideals of a liberal education are part of the college's core values that I will work to uphold in our partnership.

"So, what is advising?"

Merriam-Webster has a rather dry definition of advising, including works like "counsel," "caution","recommend," and "inform." While all of these are true, they hide the fact that effective advising requires contextual knowledge. Thus, my primary role in advising is to enable you to receive useful counseling, cautions, recommendations, and information. I do that by asking you questions that will challenge you to clarify your ideas, assumptions, and choices. If you reflect on these matters, then I can provide you more appropriate opportunities that will help you architect a more satisfying course of study.
Advising is an important extension of teaching that just happens to occur outside the classroom. Because there is no set syllabus beyond the goals outlined above, it is up to the student to define their specific learning goals and enable the adviser to suggest appropriate paths.

"What are my advisor's duties?"

It is not my role to provide answers to the questions you will face. For instance, I know something about a few general career paths, but I do not know everything, and I certainly cannot say what is right for you. In some cases, I can advise you on the general realities of particular paths (e.g., long workdays but rewarding outcomes versus banker's hours with trivial tasks, or job security versus a position subject to economic vagaries). However, I cannot tell you which matches your particular goals and values. In same cases, I may know very little, in which case I will happily refer you to a party who can provide more direct assistance (e.g., another department's chair or the Career Development office).
As you are discovering, developing, and refining your aspirations, I will listen carefully and constructively to you so that I may appropriately counsel, caution, recommend, and inform-in a word, teach.

"What are my duties as an advisee?"

At various stages in our partnership, you will be asked to reflect critically on your choices, values, and goals. This will include some writing to both process and communicate these important structural factors undergirding your educational choices. To paraphrase comic book author Stan Lee, the college gives you tremendous freedom and power to create your individualized curriculum, and with this comes an equal amount of responsibility for taking ownership of your education. You will therefore be expected to use the resources listed in this plan and any others mentioned in our meetings. You should bring a notebook to every meeting so that you may record any information, referrals, or questions that arise in the course of our discussion. This will make it much easier for you to follow up and gain the greatest benefit from our time.
Since advising is an extension of teaching, it is also necessarily a learning relationship. It is my hope that in this partnership, you will learn about learning, particularly in what your academic choices say about your values and how your choices reflect a liberal education. Learning does not come without effort, though, so you should be prepared to work toward gaining and communicating this understanding. In particular, the total amount of work you will do in this partnership over the course of four to eight semesters will likely exceed that of a half-credit course. This will include reading materials like the course catalog and syllabi, actively seeking information from places like the CLS, reflecting critically on the information gathered, participating in a dialogue with me that challenges or sharpens your views, and writing to explicitly communicate your rationales. All of these are hallmarks of courses in the liberal arts and are necessary as well for the meta-learning goals of our advising partnership.
Following the general timeline and partnering with me in the activities outlined below will allow you to get the most from what I have to offer and maximize the chances of your satisfaction with your curriculum (not to mention getting your $290,000 worth2).


1Scott Baumler (2009). Grinnell College Office of Institutional Research, Personal communication.
2Grinnell College. "U.S. Students Tuition and Financial Aid," https://www.grinnell.edu/admission/financial-aid/affording-grinnell/cost (Accessed 26 February 2021).