5 Questions With Stephen Wiener: Undergraduate Academic Adviser and Program Director


Danielle Dankner
Staff Writer

Q: If you were a student, what would you do if you found yourself in a situation where you were unable to register for the classes that you needed to take every quarter?
A: I would do a number of different things. First, I would check the UCSB online wait lists to see if there are any instructions that I would need to follow in terms of signing up for the course. For example, in the political science department, the wait list system is primarily informational as opposed to being used as a method for adding students to courses. The second thing I would do is to come into the advising office and see if there are any recommendations that they have for me. They might be able to offer other courses from different departments that are available. They could also run a progress check that would be helpful to see where I stand in terms of completing all the requirements. A lot depends on what year you are when asking these questions. I would also do most of this during the first and second pass times rather than waiting until the very beginning of the quarter. Often students will come in at the beginning of the quarter without having checked their options during the first and second pass times. My advice is to always be aware of what restrictions exist. Often courses are restricted to majors only during the first pass times and many classes also require students to take pre-requisites, so educating yourself on the courses you wish to take before it is time to register for classes is something I would highly encourage.

Q: What is the best approach to fulfilling all of the GE and major requirements?
A: Since a very high percentage of people do not know what major they are going to be when they first enter the university, it is a good idea in your first year to take a wide array of courses in various different disciplines in order to expose yourself to the humanities, sciences and fine arts to see what you are truly interested in. Take the time to talk to advisers and teaching assistants to find out why they chose their specific field of study. Transfer students have to be a little more focused, but it takes some failed attempts and that is completely ok. Some people get a little frustrated, but the reality is that in order to graduate, you need a total of 180 units and about one-third are going to be towards your major, one-third will be GEs and one-third will be anything else. So you actually have a lot of units that you don’t have to “apply to anything.” Having said that, I do realize that there are many reasons that students would like to graduate early, especially those who enter with many AP units. So this is a broad generalization seeing as some students are under more stringent time restrictions. Don’t forget, though, that opportunities go beyond the walls of the university. Take advantage of the Education Abroad Program and getting involved with the various clubs and organizations on campus.

Q: The quarter system can be very fast-paced and overwhelming at times. What advice do you have for someone who is beginning to fall behind and is struggling to catch up?
A: Partly, it depends on how many units they are in and what they have going on outside of school. If you have a job or other commitments, don’t take as many units in the first place. If you find yourself falling behind once the quarter has already begun, the first thing you should do is talk to your TA and set up a game plan for how you can catch up on your readings. Another option would be to find a study partner that you can collaborate with. Also, take advantage of the CLAS program. If it is early enough in the quarter and you have too much on your plate, you may also consider dropping the course altogether.

Q: On the same token, what tips do you have to prevent falling behind? What time management skills do you find work best for a lot of students?
A: Stay caught up on the readings and be realistic with how much you can handle. Find out the requirements for the courses before you register and be realistic with what those expectations are. Also, don’t forget to check the final exam schedule. Don’t get stuck in the positions where you have three finals scheduled within a 24-hour period. If it is too rigorous, consider a different class. Finals exam schedule are set ahead of time and you can never presume that an instructor will allow you to take the exam either early or late so plan accordingly.

Q: How does one choose the right major? How do I know if a major is right for me? And what is the process of switching majors should I choose to do so?
A: In terms of selecting a major, the first thing to do is to take a course. If you enjoy it and do well, then take another course. Then if you continue enjoying it and continue doing well, then take a third. The major you select should be something you enjoy and that you do well in. The bachelor degree should give you a well rounded liberal arts education. It gives you the breadth of your major with some focus. In terms of changing majors, the process is fairly simple. All you have to do is pick up a change of major form from the department you wish to switch into or the college of letters and science and look at the requirements (some will have a pre-major and others will have pre-major GPA). Go to the department and turn in the form. It is always a good idea to sit down with someone to see if you are on track when you are doing so. Then your form will be processed by the Office of the Registrar and your major change will show up on GOLD.