CDM students frustrated over abrupt loss of academic advisors


Erin Henze

The Jarvis CDM graduate admissions office and academic success center located in the DePaul Center. Recently, three academic advisors for CDM transferred or left their positions at the university.

DePaul students began registering for summer and fall classes toward the end of April, leading many to seek assistance from their academic advisors for creating schedules that bring them closer to graduation. 

Tabitha Randklev, a sophomore studying film in the Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM), relies heavily on her advisor for help registering for classes. However, when she reached out to her former academic advisor, Veronica Dillard, with questions about summer classes, her email bounced back, with a message saying Dillard’s email no longer existed in the DePaul system.

“I can’t find my advisor anywhere on the DePaul website anymore,” Randklev said.

Randklev’s experience is not unique for film and animation students at DePaul this quarter. 

Lauren, a DePaul student studying film and television, who requested The DePaulia only use her first name, said she received an email from her former advisor, Sarah Finck, in February saying she will be leaving her advising position at the end of winter quarter. 

After Lauren went to the CDM advising website to learn who to contact with scheduling questions, she then discovered students were being directed to their faculty advisors for further assistance.

“Students in the following majors should use their assigned faculty advisor as the primary point of contact for all advising related needs. Animation (BA/BFA/MA/MFA), Creative Producing (MFA), Documentary (MFA), Film & Television (BA/BFA/MS/MFA), Screenwriting (MFA),” a statement on the CDM advising staff page reads. 

CDM is one of the only colleges that offers both faculty and staff advisors.

According to the CDM advising page, academic advisors assist students with “progression toward degree completion, navigating university technology and resources, course selection and registration issues, and many other things.” On the other hand, faculty advisors are experts in the field a student is pursuing and mainly help students choose programs and classes that cater to their chosen career. 

Lauren said Finck advised her to utilize her faculty advisor until she is assigned a new academic advisor. However, as of now, she said she has not been assigned a new advisor.

According to Theresa Steinbach, the associate dean for the CDM, two academic advisors left the college during winter quarter, followed by another just two weeks ago.

Of the three former advisors, Finck and Becca Berkshire left CDM for positions in the College of Science and Health (CSH), and Dillard no longer works at DePaul. All three advisors did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The DePaulia. 

Since the advisors left their positions, only four academic advisors remain in CDM, despite the college containing the highest undergraduate enrollment of any college at DePaul. According to the university’s most recent enrollment data from 2021, of the 14,294 undergraduate students enrolled, 3,534 were in CDM. The college also enrolled the largest proportion of freshmen at 27%. 

Even though CSH only enrolled 2,358 students in 2021, the college has 13 staff members employed in the office of advising and student services. 

Steinbach said she believes CDM lost some of its advisors because they “have a very flat organizational structure at CDM.”

She said staff advisors in CDM often lack upward mobility because there are not many possibilities for promotions. Whereas in CSH, there are director and senior advising positions that current staff members have the option to apply for if they are looking to advance. Steinbach also said the advisors could have left because of increased workload, due to the college’s growing enrollment in recent years.

“You could be there forever and still be titled as an advisor…but we’re working on changing that so we don’t lose good employees, because they have nowhere to go,” Steinbach said.

All three of the former advisors primarily worked with students in the School of Cinematic Arts which means film and television and animation students are primarily being affected, Steinbach said. 

“I’ve heard a lot of students talking about having issues reaching advisors and getting problems resolved [or] questions answered,” Lauren said. 

Lauren said many students in CDM believe there was a lack of communication that could have been avoided.

“A lot of these students aren’t even aware that they no longer have an academic advisor and are having their emails bounced back or simply not responded to at all,” Lauren said. “DePaul didn’t communicate…and it is causing a lot of issues, especially with it being mid-spring quarter. 

However, Steinbach said the advising team is working to assist students the best they can until they fill the vacant positions. Steinbach said although they have three new advisors for film and animation students starting in May, it will take time to train them so they’re ready for the next academic year. 

“There’s been a delay in service that they’re not used to because you know, we’re usually right on spot with getting back to students,” Steinbach said. 

According to Steinbach, while CDM faculty advisors are working to accommodate student’s needs, they only have three hours of advising a week, whereas, academic advisors typically advise for 35 hours a week. 

Randklev said she never would have known Dillard did not work for DePaul anymore if she had not tried contacting her for advising assistance.

“DePaul never sent me any kind of email about it, [but] she’s still listed on my Campus Connect as my advisor,” Randklev said. “I wouldn’t have found out about this unless I had tried to email her and didn’t hear back.”

CDM students expressed a lack of communication during this transition period. Randklev said she wishes there had been more communication, especially since it is spring quarter where students utilize their advisors more so than usual.

“It’s crazy how there are hundreds of people at DePaul who just don’t have an academic advisor, and DePaul hasn’t actually said anything about it,” Randklev said.