Though my College of Engineering housemates might disagree, LSA rocks. Every day I enjoy an interdisciplinary study through a liberal arts lens, and I never have to take a bus to get to a class on North Campus. And with all respect to the No. 7 undergraduate engineering program in the country, I am glad I am a student in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

U.S. News and World Report stated that for 2010, 67 LSA departments are in the top 10 in the country, and nine departments ranked No. 1 in the country. All around us is academic excellence, and we will reap the benefits years from now when we are curing diseases, ending world famine and producing award-winning films. But while our faculty is top-notch and our academic playground is engaging, sometimes our departments interact with us students in ways that leave us scratching our heads.

Some departments give their concentrators weekly newsletters with summaries, helpful resources and important reminders. Yet others contact their concentrators at random, with little productive use of their undergraduate listserv. Many departments have student clubs and peer advisers, which provide a sense of community to students who share a major or minor. But other departments don’t provide these venues and connections for undergraduates. As students, we need to help develop our departments to better cater to our needs. We need to partner with schools to improve our top-ranked programs and make the best departments even better.

The idea is to find the leading practices in LSA departments and help apply those ideas to departments that are struggling to provide all they can to students. We want to find the best things that our nationally-recognized departments are doing and convince other departments to follow their lead. We need your help to do this.

Last semester, LSA Student Government started the Concentration Council — a group of students who serve as liaisons and representatives between their department and the student body. One or two students from each department join other representatives to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their concentrations and determine which departments are the most successful. Using a variety of metrics like advising, course offerings, community building and resource creation, the organization evaluates the good and bad aspects of every corner of LSA and works to find solutions to the concerns in each department. The representatives then return to their departments to discuss ideas and solutions to improve the experience of undergraduates in their major and in LSA. We are doing this because students are the ones who know what areas need improvement and which ones are working well. LSA is incredibly supportive of our efforts, and many in the dean’s office are also looking to find the best practices in LSA. But it’s the undergraduates who should be making the changes in the college.

In just the last two months of the fall 2010 semester, LSA undergraduate students came together and reworked the way departments communicate with their concentrators. This semester, several departments have started a newsletter for their concentrators. Additionally, a new department tool was created through work with the Newnan Academic Advising Center to help departments learn how their concentrators engage and perceive the department’s work. In the coming weeks we will be developing a peer mentorship program that all departments can use to better interact with concentrators and streamline the way students connect with tutoring resources. We’ll also be pushing for all LSA units to use the Online Advising Report system to help students travel from adviser to adviser and keep track of their relationship with the advising system.

We are currently seeking interested students to help advance the mission of the council and improve the academic resources provided by LSA departments. To apply, please go to sitemaker.umich.edu/lsasgconcentrationcouncil and tell us about your interest in improving your department and LSA. You will work with other like-minded students to find the solutions to problems in your departments. Let’s make this place even better.

By the way, engineers, if you’d like to help us out, please let us know.

Jeff Wojcik is the LSA Academic Relations Officer. He can be reached at jawojcik@umich.edu.

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