Student Advising System

Students laughing

Academic Advising Policies and Procedures

Academic advising is a structured process where information about course sequencing, specialization, and access to academic resources, program and institutional policies are reinforced with each student.  The BASW program provides accurate and timely information about course matriculation to each student to support academic success.  Each academic year, faculty who serve as academic advisors are given relevant information about course and program offerings and are offered additional training as needed.

Prior to the student starting in the program, the BASW Program Director assigns academic advisors to students. Academic advisors and students are notified of their mutual assignments. Each term, students must meet with their academic advisors to get academic information and to get permission to enroll for courses in the subsequent term to ensure that students have fulfilled program requirements and are eligible to graduate. The process ensures that academic advising supports, tracks, and monitors progress to successful graduation. If an occasion arises that warrants a change in academic advisor, the change will be made by the BASW program director and both the student and advisor will be notified of the changes.

Through the advising process, academic advisors share information related to courses, course offerings, registration, academic policies, and graduation processes. Academic advisors become aware of students’ academic strengths and challenges and can provide targeted support and opportunities to help prevent potential problems. The goal is to develop a supportive working relationship that promotes student connection to the program and engagement with the broader University.

Academic advisors help students understand program and university policies. They can also serve as an advocate if students face academic or professional challenges by familiarizing students with guidance resources such as the Standards of Professional and Ethical Behavior and Student Conduct Integrity policy, or connecting students to resources on campus like the writing or counseling centers. Advisors provide formal structured support so that students feel connected to the program and have a point of contact for their academic progress.

When students enroll for Practicum Seminar I and the concurrent Practicum Seminar and Lab I, the seminar and lab instructor for the section in which the student is enrolled becomes their faculty advisor for the remainder of their enrollment in the BASW Program.

Academic advisors are the first point of contact for any or all of the following:

  1. Registration, add/drop, leaves of absence, and withdrawals;
  2. Clarification of all academic policies and procedures (e.g., grading policies, graduation requirements, directed study);
  3. Discussions regarding academic expectations and performance;
  4. Information about other departments and/or programs in the School of Social Work or the University of Pittsburgh;
  5. Planning for the student’s educational program in accordance with their career interests.


Professional Advising Policies and Procedures

While academic advising focuses on the administrative aspects of sequencing coursework and attaining graduation in a timely fashion, professional advising provides institutional coaching and support on an ongoing basis and helps students navigate their educational and professional identity. Professional advising can take place in an informal manner when students interact with their academic advisor, teaching faculty, field supervisors, career center staff and alumni. Formal methods include individual meetings and seminars with structured content.  It orients the student to the process of becoming a competent social worker through academic training and mentoring and outlines how students are to comport themselves in professional manner in relation to one another, guided by the standards outlined in the Standards of Professional and Ethical Behavior, as well as the ethics and professional values stated in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics..

Professional advising  focuses on developing a relationship with students that provides guidance around educational choices, career goals, and life goals as well as reinforcing the professional decorum and standards of professional and ethical behavior that is specific to the social work profession.  Professional advising can take place in the classroom, field, and in academic advising sessions and is initiated when students matriculate into the program. This integrated process prepares students to enter into professional social work practice in a guided manner so that they can make meaningful contribution to the field.

Professional advising is ensured for all students in the following ways:

  1. Professional advising occurs in academic advising which is mandated for all students. This reinforces of academic policies including Academic Integrity and Student Conduct and Standards for Professional and Ethical Behavior,
  2. Professional advising occurs in field advising which is mandated for all students.  This includes discussion of potential filed placements, participation in Practicum Seminar Lab, integration of field in the classroom, and participation and evaluation in field visits,
  3. Professional advising occurs at the career center, available for all students- provision of topical/timely trainings for all students and is a resource for early career transition,
  4. Professional advising occurs in cohort based learning programs, available for students who participate in fellowships and centers where they receive mentoring, specialized education and training on  topics such as race, LGBTQIA, age, health, etc.

In the senior year of enrolment in the BASW program, students attend the Practicum Seminar & Lab course which centers the field experience and gives dedicated space and time to discuss the social work profession and provides mentoring and coaching in real time: thus, in the senior year, advising is integrated with practice, class, field and professional experience.

The sequential format for advising creates a holistic approach that is student-centered and supports a student’s intellectual and personal growth as they advance through the program. It is a relational process in which instructors and advisors in fieldwork, coursework and institutional support prepare students to enter into professional social work practice in a guided manner so that they can make meaningful contributions to the field. 

Professional advising can occur both formally and informally. Formal methods include structured one on one meeting, seminars set up by affiliated centers and programs, and specialized course offerings. Informal methods include open office hours, discussions before and after classes, and conversation about field placement experiences. Both formal and informal methods create space for students to practice professional behavior outlined in the Standards of Professional and Ethical Behavior in and out of the classroom, at their field sites, and in the community. Faculty, staff, field supervisors, alumni, and experts in student’s area of interest all provide professional advising and model social work values in each interaction

If in the process of professional advising or in their tenure as a student in the program,  it becomes evident that students are not able to adhere the Professional Standards of Ethical and Professional Behavior or the larger university Student Code of Conduct, they may be referred to the Academic and Student Conduct Committee, which will initiate a corrective process to formally guide the student toward improvement.

Professional advising also helps students make a connection between their academic experience and their future life plans. Professional advising helps students identify strengths, talents, and challenges and directs students to resources within the school and community.  Advisors model professional behavior and use the advising relationship to address how students can work on self-awareness, interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, and conduct themselves in a manner that demonstrates respect for social work values. Professional advising reiterates how students are to comport themselves with one another in and out of the classroom and  how they can develop their professional self in the educational setting.