And now for something completely different: I'm Nikki, a sophomore ECE from Southern California, and I am decidedly not Ellen. In simpler words, Ellen is letting me guest blog.
So, let's talk about advisors. Advisors are something that you find at pretty much every school ever, and they run the gambit from super awesome (read: helping you get jobs, letting you crash at their house, helping you figure out academics, etc.) to barely noticing your existence (read: barely noticing your existence). Process-wise, Olin is pretty normal about advising. Every incoming freshman gets assigned an advisor when they get here, and many students stay with the same advisor until they graduate.
There are some really nice things about advising at Olin. For starters, incoming students don't just get assigned to an advisor. They also get assigned to an extended advising family, a collective of several advisors and all of their student advisees. Since professors are often extremely busy, being part of an extended advising family makes it easier for them to schedule group events like study breaks and fun outings, so that students and profs alike can take a break and get to know one another better.
Extended advising families also give students an immediate connection to multiple professors, and allow us to get to know professors that we wouldn't necessarily interact with otherwise. For example, I have only taken a class with one of the five professors in my extended family, but I'm on a first name basis with all of them and feel comfortable chatting with them when we cross paths (this is notable - Olin is small, but not so small that you'll get to know every professor right away).
Another benefit of extended advising families is getting to tag along with other professors. Tonight, for example, I joined Rob Martello, a history professor in my extended advising family, and his advisees for a trip to Cabot's*. I'll admit to feeling a little awkward about coming to someone else's advising event, but Rob welcomed me openly, and pointed out that we are in the same overarching advising family. To top it all off, when he passed around a grab bag of books as an end-of-year gift for his advisees, he told me to take one as well (I pulled The Official Preppy Handbook). Outings like this are common; many professors periodically take their advisees bowling, golfing, out to dinner, and whatever else they can think of.
I have to say, advising is one of my favorite things about Olin. Having professors that you know on a personal level, who help you out with your academics and planning but don't have you in any of their classes, can really help smooth over some of the rougher parts of transitioning to college. Beyond that, it's really nice to have a one-on-one connection with faculty from Day One, and of course, having fun is always a plus.
*For those not in the know, Cabot's is an (Olin-famous) ice cream parlor that serves, among other delicacies, a 12 scoop frappe (Massachussetts-ese for milkshake) known as a "Pru". The ice cream and frozen yogurt are amazing, and the portions are mind-boggling, so it's perfect for college student outings.