Academic Affairs

Academic Advising

1. First-Year students and sophomores who have not declared a major

Academic advising of first-year students and pre-major sophomores is coordinated by the Director of the Academic Advising Center, along with other Associate and Assistant Deans of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. This year Dean David Rabiner is serving as Interim Director of the Academic Advising Center. The AAC, along with the offices of Deans Rabiner, Blackmon, Blackshear, Kostyu, Murphy-Brown, and Perz-Edwards are located behind Brown Residence Hall on East Campus. They may be reached at 684-6217.

Each first-year student is assigned an academic advisor, who is often, but not always, a faculty member. Advisors, who are recruited and appointed by the Director of the Academic Advising Center, are responsible for several (typically around 10) first-year students and an equal number of sophomores and are expected to meet with their advisees regularly throughout the semester. Academic advisors are recruited each year by the Director of the AAC through direct appeal to individual faculty members and, in some cases, with the assistance of department Chairs or DUSs. In addition, students have access to a whole network of advisors, including peer advisors, directors of academic engagement, and academic deans. See for more information.

Questions about general matters of policy or course offerings as they relate to new students should be directed to Dean Rabiner, or any of the other academic deans of the college (Associate Deans Milton Blackmon, John Blackshear, Jeff Forbes, Shane Goodridge, Ron Grunwald, Donna Kostyu, Karen Murphy, Rachael Murphy-Brown, Alyssa Perz-Edwards, Sabrina Thomas, and Gerald Wilson), rather than to individual academic advisors. Similarly, the deans may refer to the DUS students who have questions that cannot readily be settled in conference with an individual instructor or that appear to concern matters of departmental policy. The DUS may also be called by individual academic advisors with similar questions.

Instructors who have concerns about the academic standing or attendance of individual students in their classes should direct them to the student's academic dean.

2. Transfer students and Office of Student Returns (OSR)

Entering transfer students are informed in advance of Fall orientation that before beginning classes at Duke they must seek appropriate academic advising through the deans in the Academic Advising Center and, if declaring immediately, the DUS of their intended major department/program. Although staff in the Academic Advising Center will have contacted entering transfer students by phone and e-mail over the summer (to discuss Fall course selections, plans for a major, and their transfer credits from their previous institution), most transfer students will not be seen in person until orientation week.

Returning students are informed during Fall and Spring Orientation that they must seek appropriate academic advising through the academic dean and DUS before beginning classes at Duke. While some students may be seen during visits to campus a month or two before classes begin, in the Fall the majority are first seen during orientation week, e.g., the Thursday afternoon and Friday before classes begin on Monday; in the Spring they are seen just before the beginning of classes.

The DUS is asked to be available during this period to assist transfer students and returning students in understanding the major requirements, options, opportunities, degree requirements, and academic regulations. Students are likely to ask for help in planning the remainder of their degree program in general and specifically their course schedule for the coming semester. Immediately before the advising period, the dean in charge of returning students (Dean Sabrina Thomas) and of transfer students from other institutions (Dean Donna Kostyu ) will send to each DUS information on the incoming students who have declared a major in that department. All transfer students, initially, are assigned to the Academic Advising Center, where they will have an academic advisor.

Students who are transferring courses from other institutions may inquire about their transfer credits and Duke equivalents of courses taken elsewhere. The DUS may authorize Duke course equivalents in his or her discipline for courses transferred to Duke, especially after a student has matriculated. For details about the course approval process see Transfer Credit. Dean Donna Kostyu should be informed of any changes to be made in Duke course equivalents for transferred courses.

During the first visit of incoming students who have registered through ACES, the DUS should review the proposed schedule and offer suggestions about changes that seem appropriate. If the students are to register on campus, then the DUS should assist in course selection and approve the schedule. In addition, the orientation period provides an excellent opportunity for students to inquire about the major and other academic concerns. Such an opportunity is welcomed by students who have declared a major, and also by those who are still exploring various majors.

The DUS continues to advise returning students and transfer students until departmental advisors are assigned. The academic deans work closely with transfer students and with returning students and have available all application and entrance materials for them. Questions may be referred to the appropriate dean.

For information about students matriculating in Trinity College from Continuing Studies, see Continuing Studies and Summer Session.

3. Majors

First-year students and some upperclassmen are particularly concerned about the selection of a major. It is probably the most important, and often the most difficult, academic decision that students face. Academic problems of students who have declared a major should be directed to their academic dean. A complete list of the academic deans is available at:

Potential Majors (Premajors) – Long-Range Planning

Students who are trying to decide on a major frequently seek information from DUSs. They may be referred to the DUS by academic deans or by advisors in the Academic Advising Center, CAPS, or elsewhere. The students may seek clarification of the major requirements and appropriate course sequences in the major and related fields, but they are also very interested in career opportunities that might be open to them as a result of completing the major.

The Undergraduate Faculty Council of Arts and Sciences implemented “Long Range Planning” beginning August 1985. Before declaring a major students must develop a long-range plan for their entire undergraduate education. Most of the advising leading to the long-range plan takes place through the Academic Advising Center, but DUSs may be called upon by students, advisors, and the Center's staff for information regarding recommended course sequences, tentatively-scheduled course offerings, and summer internship or other placement opportunities. To the extent that this information can be provided in departmental handbooks for majors and prospective majors and on the departmental websites, the DUSs' involvement can be reduced, and time can be saved to deal with substantive questions and unusual circumstances. When students declare their majors, copies of their approved long-range plans are available to DUSs via STORM.

Declaration of Majors, Their Records, and Assignment of Advisors

Students may change their majors in the Office of the University Registrar, but the original declaration of a major is made in the Academic Advising Center after consultation with an advisor, presentation of an approved long-range plan, and filing of the plan. Students must declare the major by the beginning of Spring break in the sophomore year. While most declare in the fourth semester, a number of sophomores do so during the third semester. A small number of students will declare a major at the end of the first academic year.
It makes a difference when in the semester a student declares a major. If a student completes the long-range plan and has it approved on or before the end of the third week of the fall or spring semester, the major declaration is recorded promptly and the DUS in question can expect to be notified and have access to the student's advising records and long-range plan in STORM immediately so that there is adequate time for the assignment of a departmental advisor before registration begins. If a student declares a major after the end of the third week of the semester, the student’s advising needs continue to be met by the students' pre-major academic advisor for the remainder of the semester. In such cases, the major declaration is recorded and takes effect after the end of that semester. The student's advising records and long-range plan will be available to the appropriate DUS in STORM before the beginning of the student’s next semester.

Advising Records for New Majors

Information about majors is available via STORM and includes each student's standardized test scores, Advanced Placement credit, undergraduate academic history, and current course schedules. STORM also generates copies of the most recent Advisement Report provided by the University Registrar.

The student's approved long-range plan, also in STORM, provides information on the student's educational goals, tentative plans for a career or other post-graduate work, study abroad, summer experiences, and term-time co-curricular and employment involvements. Departments are encouraged to review the long-range plan with students at each registration period and to help students update the plan as necessary.

Departmental Mailing to New Majors

Upon notification of the names of newly declared majors, the DUSs in most departments mail to the new students the handbook for majors giving general information about the faculty, the requirements, departmental seminars, and other information that might be of use to the student, or send a welcoming email with the relevant URL's that point students to the websites containing this information. The mailing usually includes an invitation to the student to visit the department to receive the assignment of a faculty advisor with whom the student would discuss plans for completing the major.

4. Second Majors

Faculty advisers may not be formally assigned for second majors, but any student who declares a second major should seek periodic counsel from the appropriate department. This usually means that a student seeking a second major consults with the DUS of that department. The Advisement Report is submitted to the DUS of the second major near the end of the student's second to last semester for certification of the major for graduation.

5. Interdepartmental Major

A student may declare an interdepartmental major in two Trinity College departments or programs that offer a major after receiving the approval of the directors of undergraduate studies of the departments involved. The major must be planned early in the undergraduate career. It must consist of fourteen or more courses; the courses must be split evenly between the two departments; at least four of the seven courses required by each department must be taught within the department. While one of the departments must be identified as the department primarily responsible for the advising for the student's major program, the student must have an advisor in both departments. A student who has not yet declared a major should consult the Academic Advising Center. A student who has declared a major and is interested in changing to an interdepartmental major should consult the academic dean responsible for students completing an interdepartmental major. Students proposing an interdepartmental major must present a written plan that has the signed approval of the two directors of undergraduate studies to the Academic Advising Center or the academic dean for interdepartmental majors, as noted above; the plan must include a descriptive title and rationale as well as a list of courses that will be taken in both departments. The directors of undergraduate studies must jointly approve any subsequent changes to the course of study.

6. Program II

For details on this curriculum option consult the Program II website at The primary role of the DUS in regard to this alternative, self-designed curriculum in Trinity College is to review and endorse (or not endorse) a Program II proposal for a unique thematic curriculum, different from what is available in Program I. A statement from the DUS is a required part of each proposal. (The DUS can either complete the "Departmental (DUS) Statement of Support," which is part of the student's Program II application form or provide a separate statement.)