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Academic Advising at DKU

Advising Overview and Background Information

Mission Statement

The Office of Undergraduate Advising is committed to providing a signature advising experience that promotes holistic learning and understanding of the integrated and multi-discipline curriculum and prepares the next generation of scholars and leaders. Academic advising provides undergraduates with academic strategies that reinforce a research-oriented liberal arts and sciences education inclusive of how students learn and develop in pursuit of their academic and career endeavors.

Advising and Mentoring

Academic advising is salient to undergraduate education at Duke Kunshan University. The goal of all academic advising is to provide a network of support across the university that is student-centered and responsive to the needs of students. Advisors teach students about the undergraduate curriculum and co-curriculum by providing insight on how to navigate their college experience. This process includes teaching students how each course contributes to their knowledge and innovative thinking. Additionally, advisors teach students practical skills related to decision-making and how to take responsibility for developing meaningful educational plans compatible with their academic potential, career, and life goals.

Advising is more than the imparting of specialized information; it includes helping students explore and discover the role of education in society and teaching students the skills for active learning and perseverance to reach long-term goals. Moreover, students will learn how to formulate important questions about the nature and direction of their education through effective questioning. Advisors will confer with students about course schedules and educational experiences, but students themselves are responsible for their academic program, social activities, and for making progress toward an academic degree. As students progress through their academic programs, their advising needs change requiring an advising partnership that provides guidance from campus faculty and administrators.

Such a partnership is particularly important during the period of transition and adjustment that typically takes place during the first-year in college. To ensure continuity of connection and progress toward graduation, if appropriate, the primary advisor will be with the student for the entire duration of their studies at Duke Kunshan. Once a student selects an interdisciplinary community or disciplinary area of study, a second advisor (i.e. mentor) will be assigned to guide the student through his/her disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies and signature project.

The Associate Dean for Academic Advising oversees the academic advisor/mentor team, whom understand the terrain of broad areas such as arts and humanities, global and civic opportunities, and natural and quantitative sciences, and pre-professional advisors with expertise in areas such as health, entrepreneurship, law and business. This network of advisors/mentors ensures that students have varied sources of information and build close relationships with campus faculty and staff who provide guidance about future plans and act as references.

At Duke Kunshan, advisors are key to understanding the nature of the academic programs and how it can address student interests, goals and purposes, advise on navigating academic and social life, determining appropriate learning strategy, tutoring, and aid in the selection of courses, majors, signature pathways, and experiential activities. Professional advisors and peer mentors work in concert with faculty advisors to maintain up-to-date information on university requirements, academic policies, procedures, and deadlines; they also provide guidance for students whom need tutoring and demonstrate academic difficulty.

Support offices such as the Counseling Center, Academic Resource Center (ARC), Writing and Language Studio (WLS), Campus Health Services, and the Office of Career Services can help students identify academic strategies and refine their interests and goals. Students should refer to selected majors for specific curriculum requirements required for degree completion.

Academic Advising Overview

Most new students do not know what to expect of college advising. Advising at Duke Kunshan differs from what many students experienced in high school in that it is not prescriptive in terms of telling students what classes they need to take. Instead, advising is more like a collaborative form of teaching in which advisors help students learn to gather and weigh information to help them make informed decisions about their academic and co-curricular path at DKU.

Academic advisors play an essential role for new students—you will welcome them to DKU’s intellectual community, help them feel comfortable as they begin their journey, and assist them in thinking through many of the choices they will be making over the next several years.

Your advisees will arrive with varied expectations, hopes, and dreams for their life at DKU, not all of which will be met. You will support and assist them as they navigate the transition to college life and find an academic and personal home. This will involve being a good listener; conveying genuine interest and curiosity about their questions, interests, and concerns; providing accurate information; challenging them to take advantage of the many opportunities available; and connecting them with others who can help them.

You will be joining a community of advisors. Nearly 60 faculty and staff across the university will serve as academic advisors. Currently, based on staffing, advising loads are projected to average 10-13 students over four years In addition to educational support, professional advisor within the Office of Undergraduate Advising will maintain  larger advising loads not to exceed 90 students over four years. Each year the Office of Undergraduate Advising will determine if advising loads projections require revision. The Associate Dean for Academic Advising and the Senior Coordinator for Academic Advising will be available to address your questions and concerns. There will also be residence hall and campus events during the year that advisors will be welcome to attend. We hope that advisors will get to know one another and that the relationships you develop with your fellow advisors becomes a rewarding aspect of your advising experience.

Advising Values

Seven Principles of DKU Curriculum and Academic Advising

  • Rooted Globalism: Academic Advising cultivates academic citizens who are knowledgeable about how their curricular and career interests influence their local, national, and international communities.   
  • Collaborative Problem Solving: Academic Advising is a collaborative experience between Advisor and Advisee that teaches problem solving skills to successfully navigate college and life circumstances. 
  • Research and Practice: Academic advising leverages curricular teachings with practical experience to assist with critical thinking and career readiness. 
  • Lucid Communication: Academic Advising promotes effective discourse between Advisee and Advisor that nurtures good decision-making practices. 
  • Independence and Creativity: Academic Advising is an environment where Advisees are responsible for charting their academic, social, and career pathways through inquiry, reflection, personal choice and consultation with Advisors.  
  • Wise Leadership: Academic Advising teaches ethical principles that promote holistic student development, authentic academic workmanship, innovative thinking, and research. 
  • A Purposeful Life: Academic Advising teaches and encourages Advisees to grow, discover, and enhance academic grit to persevere through academic and life challenges.

Scope of Responsibility

  • Monitor academic performance, major exploration, major declaration, and persistence to graduation  
  • Coordinate Signature Work and monitor the Duke 34 (Duke Degree Requirements)
  • Process academic early alerts and student referrals (e.g., academic accommodations, Counseling Services, Campus Health Services)
  • Provide oversight to advising practices, explain academic policies and procedures, and provide academic support services inclusive of academic success strategies

Student Advising Experience: 4-Year Student Development/Holistic Advising Model

  • Academic exploration and engagement
  • Diversity and cross-cultural communication
  • Career exploration (in partnership with Career Services) and lifelong learning
  • Pre-professional advising (e.g., medical, law, graduate school)
  • Faculty mentorship/Signature Work

Academic Advising Curriculum

First Year Advising

  • Introduction to a liberal arts experience and academic readiness 
  • Major and career exploration (e.g., Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences) 
  • Diversity: Knowledge of self (e.g., understanding of self, academic readiness, identify exploration)

Sophomore Advising

  • Major declaration/career development (i.e., résumé, letters of recommendation) 
  • Undergraduate research and Signature Work 
  • Leadership development (e.g., peer coaches, residential academic peer coaches, tutors) 
  • Diversity: Knowledge of others

Junior Year Advising

  • Undergraduate Research (i.e., Signature Work) 
  • Study Away/Duke Experience Preparation 
  • Career Development and Professionalism 
  • Diversity: Demonstrate cultural competence

Senior Year Advising

  • Graduation preparation and post DKU experience
  • Undergraduate Research Symposium (Signature Work Presentations) 
  • Career Development and Professionalism 
  • Diversity: Ability to contribute to world and society

The Academic Advising Team

Academic Advisors

Faculty and staff serve as academic advisors and teach undergraduate students how to navigate college, make appropriate choices, and participate in major exploration during which students discover and determine their academic and career pathway. Academic advisors promote an inclusive learning environment and academic culture that stimulates wellness, scholarship, and engagement. Advisors help students develop a long-range academic plan. In consultation with advisors, students declare their major by the end of sophomore year and develop a 4-year plan by term that outlines perspective courses required to complete all degree and graduation requirements.

Professional Academic Advisors

Professional academic advisors share similar responsibilities with the academic advisors, but will have additional functional responsibilities to develop cohort-specific advising plan, contribute to the 4-year advising model, coordinate advising programs (e.g., Major Fairs, New Student Orientation, Campus Days, Guest Speakers, Assessment). Additionally, professional advisors serve as a general resource and advising coaches to other advisors, division leads, students, parents, and campus stakeholders.

Faculty Mentors 

Mentors provide guidance related to Signature Work and major specific advice. In consultation with academic advisors, students may declare their Faculty Mentor at the point of major selection. Students should notify their academic advisors and/or Office of Undergraduate Advising if a mentor isn’t identified by the end of the sophomore year.

Senior Coordinator for Academic Advising

The Senior Coordinator for Academic Advising helps coordinate the undergraduate academic advising program, maintains student records, produces advising reports, and provides advising project management. The Senior Coordinator also carries an advising load and provides administrative support to the Associate Dean for Academic Advising.

Academic Success Tutors (Subject Area Peer Advisors)

Academic Success Tutors are advisors that provide high-quality tutoring related to mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and academic skills coaching and work in collaboration with faculty to develop tutorial strategies to best assist undergraduate with the new and innovative curriculum. Overtime, additional tutoring options will be available based on student demand and consultation with faculty instructors.  We also have some graduate students serving as part-time tutors.

Senior Coordinator for Academic Success

The Senior Coordinator for Academic Success delivers undergraduate learning support services to new and continuing students in the Academic Resource Center within the Office of Undergraduate Advising. Additionally, this Advisor works in collaboration with faculty, staff, and students to provide tutoring support to academic programs, undergraduate learning strategies, and student support services and provides leadership by developing campus synergy and coordination between units (e.g., Academic Divisions, Language & Culture Center, Library, Writing and Language Studio, Student Affairs) that contribute to student academic success and progress to graduation.

Associate Dean for Academic Advising

The Associate Dean for Academic Advising helps develop and provides visionary leadership for the primarily faculty-based academic advising system and provides academic advising support for our new undergraduate program. The individual serves as the university representative for academic advising and assists in identifying goals and objectives for student success. The Associate Dean oversees the Academic Resource Center and tutoring and supplemental instructions. The Associate Dean also carries an advising load.

Guiding Principles of Academic Advising

The most important goal for college advisors is to help their advisees make a successful transition to college life at DKU. Although this depends largely on the decisions students make about how to focus their time and energy, advisors can play an important role in this process. Below are some general advising principles that will be helpful as you begin working with your students: 

Convey respect and genuine interest. 

The experience of feeling listened to and respected is enormously appreciated by students. Advisors who are curious about their advisees and genuinely interested in learning more about their interests, goals, concerns, etc., can help alleviate some of the stress and worry that many students feel upon starting at DKU. Many new students feel anxious and unsure of themselves. As accomplished as our students are, many feel anxious about fitting in at DKU, about succeeding here, and may even question whether they belong. Providing a space for students to voice such worries should they have them can be enormously helpful. This often comes about by conveying interest in how they are navigating life at DKU, by normalizing that students often feel unsure or anxious as they begin college, and by conveying a willingness to discuss concerns they may have.

Work collaboratively with your advisees to make decisions.

The best advising is a collaborative process. While there are certainly circumstances where explicit directives are warranted, it is generally best to avoid telling students what they should do. Think of your role as helping students decide what makes the most sense for them based on their appraisal of their interests, aptitudes, values, and goals. You will help them make such decisions by providing relevant information, suggesting ways they can obtain the additional information needed to make good decisions, and helping them think through the pros and cons of different options they are considering. This can be difficult because students sometimes want to be told ‘what they should do and what courses they should take.’ Try to resist succumbing to the temptation to ‘give advice’ and think about how you can help your advisees become more comfortable with making good decisions for themselves. Use affirming language to encourage them when they have made good decisions. Ask additional questions if you have concerns with their decision-making process. 

Provide accurate information. 

Students will act on the information you provide and you should do your best to make sure that it is factually correct. This will often mean double checking by looking things up.

  • The most authoritative information on general academic policies and academic requirements at DKU can be found on the Undergraduate Bulletin ( NEVER make something up or give false information and always keep notes logged in the Student Information System. Advisors should reframe from logging topics of sexual assault, mental health, and physical issues in SIS.  
  • Take personal notes, secure them, and immediately consult the Associate Dean for Academic Advising for further action as soon as possible.  The Associate Dean for Academic Advising, in consultation with the Dean of Students and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, will advise you on next steps.  
  • It is better to let a student know you will get back to them after consulting an appropriate resource—or by directing them to consult that resource—than to convey incorrect information. 
  • If there is an immediate threat to self or others, (1) Make sure you are safe, (2) Care for the Student(s) (3) follow the campus student emergency protocol.  

For more details about Student Emergency Protocol, consult the Dean of Students Affairs.  

Normalize help-seeking. 

Most DKU students are accustomed to a history of success in academic and other domains. Struggling academically and getting rejected from opportunities they apply for may be a brand new experience. Students may be reluctant to seek help when they are struggling and erroneously believe that ‘everyone else’ is doing fine.

When you sense a student is struggling or have direct evidence that they are, it can be helpful to convey that many of their peers are likely to be experiencing similar challenges. DKU provides a wide array of academic and personal support resources because so many students use them and benefit from them. Helping a student realize that seeking help is an adaptive and healthy thing to do—and not a sign of ‘weakness’ or incompetence—can make an important difference in their willingness to do so.

Connect students with resources that can help when you are not able to.

When in doubt about your preparation and/or ability to assist a student, it is best to refer the student to Associate Dean for Academic Advising, Dean of Undergraduate Studies or to another appropriate resource. It is impossible for advisors—or anyone—to be able to answer all the questions that students will have. When you don’t know the answer, connecting students with resources that can best assist them is enormously helpful.

Learn as much as you can about resources to support students at DKU.

The more you know, the more helpful you can be to the students with whom you work. A great collection of support resources is provided in the Advisor Resources shared folder in Sakai.

The Art of Making Referrals

Referring students to others for assistance is an art in itself. It is much more than merely asking the student to talk to “the other office.” An effective referral depends on your ability to explain to your student why it is necessary, and how the person or office you are suggesting them to visit can really be of help. One important step in making a referral is to ask the student probing and open-ended questions. When a student mentions to you that they are having difficulty in Math Foundations 1 (or insert alternative course), you can ask questions such as “how has your experience been in the Math Foundations 1 (or insert alternative course?”, “how have you been studying?”, “what resources have you been using to help you study?” and inquiry about the student’s personal wellness by asking “how have you been sleeping?” and “how is your relationship with your roommates?” to get an understanding of where the issues may be. On many college campuses, when a referral needs to be made, it is perceived that “this is no longer my business” and the end result is normally one department ends up handling all the issues or no one office is ultimately responsible for the student’s case. In order to build a collaborative culture of supporting our students, these probing questions need to be asked by the advisor in the advising meeting. The next step in the referral process is to explain to the student how the other office can help, rather than simply telling the student to “go talk to the Residential Coordinator” or some other campus officer.  You may hear reluctance or even resistance when you try to refer your student to Counseling Services. You can explain to the student that Counseling is a free and confidential resource and you can even try to frame it as a “conversation” or a “chat” with the counselor, not necessarily a “counseling appointment,” which may hold some students back. Another approach may be to introduce the staff the student is referred to talk to by name or schedule the appointment during an upcoming advising appointment and walk the student over. This will hopefully help the student paint the image of a friendly and helpful individual, rather than a certified counselor. To conclude the conversation, you can encourage the student to make a follow-up appointment with you to report back on their discussions with other offices. It is typically that students often do not follow up with the next steps that they agreed to do, so this is one way to keep the student accountable. If you experience cases where the student is in urgent need to talk to another office, for example, Counseling Services, you can ask the student whether they would be comfortable with the staff reaching out to them. Most of the times, the student would say yes. Lastly, it would be nice to brief the other office with a summary of your discussion with the student so they will have an understanding of the issues, rather than having the student being asked similar questions again.

Pre-Professional Advising

Pre-Health Advising

Advisors with students who are interested in pursuing a career in the medical and health professions should help students consult the Pre-Health website under the Office of Undergraduate Advising. The goal of the first year or two is to provide students with foundational knowledge needed to make an informed decision related to their academic course selection, majors, Duke course options, and graduate and professional interests. There are two Pre-Health advisors who can help students further explore pathways in health and familiarize them with the application process for various graduate programs. Primary advisors are the first point of contact for their respective advisees, but can encourage students to seek out a Pre-Health advisor for more tailored advising. The Office of Undergraduate Advising also hosts periodic information sessions and speakers on pre-health and pre-med topics. 

For students interested in medical school, advisors should be able to guide students through the recommended courses for preparation for medical school. DKU does not have a specific pre-med program. Pre-med students should work with their primary advisors and seek out the Pre-Health Advisors as they progress on their journey. Pre-Health advisors also have limited medical school resources and test prep materials that are available to students on loan. See here for a list of courses recommended for pre-med students (course updated in progress). According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the following 15 competencies are critical for students entering medical school:

  • Pre-Professional Competencies
    • Service orientation
    • Social skills
    • Cultural competence
    • Teamwork
    • Oral communication
    • Ethical responsibility to self and others
    • Reliability and dependability
    • Resilience and Adaptability
    • Capacity for improvement
  • Thinking and Reasoning Competencies
    • Critical thinking
    • Quantitative reasoning
    • Scientific inquiry
    • Written communication
  • Science Competencies
    • Living systems
    • Human behavior

Students should work with their primary and Pre-Health advisors to pursue the attainment of these competencies, through coursework, co-curricular activities and leadership opportunities on and off campus.

To the degree possible, pre-med students will be pre-assigned to the Pre-Med advisors. 

See Pre-Health Resources and Pre-Health FAQ for more details.

Pre-Law Advising

Prospective law students are free to choose from the wide variety of courses offered at DKU. DKU endorses the position of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) that a single “best” preparation for law school cannot be recommended. As a result, there is no prescribed pre-law curriculum or a pre-law major. A student interested in Law can choose from among any of our majors and still go on to Law School in the United States (refer student to Law School websites for admissions standards). See Pre-Law Resources and Pre-Law FAQ for more details.

Pre-law students are recommended to take courses that require extensive reading, research, and writing. The General Education Requirements are an excellent beginning for pre-law students because it offers a rigorous and multidisciplinary foundation for advanced study in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. No matter what one majors in, law schools value a well-rounded liberal arts education, so students should choose their electives wisely. For example, the precision of methodology and thought required of students in mathematics, computer science, logic, and the natural sciences will aid in the development of analytic skills, while a background in the behavioral sciences and the humanities (such as politics, economics, history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology) will offer a deeper understanding of human institutions and values as well as opportunities for critical thinking and writing.

There is no specific major that best prepares you for law school. The American Bar Association (ABA) states the following on their website:

“The ABA does not recommend any undergraduate majors or group of courses to prepare for a legal education. Students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. You may choose to major in subjects that are considered to be traditional preparation for law school, such as history, English, philosophy, political science, economics, or business, or you may focus your undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music, science and mathematics, computer science, engineering, nursing, or education. Whatever major you select, you are encouraged to pursue an area of study that interests and challenges you, while taking advantage of opportunities to develop your research and writing skills. Taking a broad range of difficult courses from demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal education. A sound legal education will build upon and further refine the skills, values, and knowledge that you already possess.”

ABA’s Preparation for Legal Education statement suggests that prelaw students develop skills in the following areas:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical reading
  • Writing and editing
  • Oral communication and listening
  • Research
  • Organization and management
  • Public service and promotion of justice
  • Relationship-building and collaboration
  • Background knowledge, exposure to the law

Given the above, it is possible to sketch the following areas, which are most suitable for a legal career:

Reading, Writing, and Research

Since verbal and critical thinking skills are at the core of the legal profession, courses which require rigorous reading, writing, and research should be taken. Seminars are also encouraged as they require extensive verbal engagement in class.

Analytical Skills and Precise Methodology

Precise methodology, thinking, and analytical skills can be developed in a broad array of liberal arts and sciences courses, particularly in mathematics, computer science, logic, and the natural sciences.

Behavioral Sciences and Humanities

Course work, beyond the distribution requirement, is encouraged in the area of behavioral sciences and humanities—politics, economics, history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, sociology—is recommended since each will provide crucial insight into human institutions and values with which the law deals. 

Quantitative Data

In addition to the verbal disciplines that are traditionally valued by law schools, a basic understanding of economic principles, business, and finance is of increasing importance in law schools, and courses in finance, economics, business organization, and accounting are highly valued.

Adapted from NYU Shanghai Recommended Courses for Pre-Law.

Graduate School Advising

Graduate school advising is collaborated between the Office of Undergraduate Advising and the Career Services Office.

Career Services 

  • Interviews Preparation 
  • Graduate School as it relates to Career development/mobility
  • Experiential Portfolio 
  • Writing Cover letter 
  • Resume/CV
  • Internships 
  • Graduate Fairs*
  • Graduate School Options*
  • Graduate School Research* 

Undergraduate Advising 

  • Academic Profile 
  • General Advising on Graduate School
  • Pre-professional advising (e.g., Pre-Health, Pre-Law, Pre-Business)*
  • Graduate School Options*
  • General Information Sessions*
  • Faculty/Student Panels*
  • Graduate School Process 
  • General Application Process 
  • Testings (MCAT, LSAT, GRE, TOEFL)  

Faculty are best resources for students when they consider which specific university and program to apply for.

Fellowship Advising

The Office of Undergraduate Advising is actively developing the fellowship advising program for students. This will include info sessions and individual student appointment to discuss fellowship opportunities.

Possible fellowship opportunities may include:


  • Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University
  • Yenching Academy at Peking University


  • Rhodes China Scholarship
  • Princeton in Asia


  • Fulbright Scholars Student Program
  • Knight-Hennessy Scholars at Stanford University
  • Gates Cambridge
  • DAAD (German)
  • Erasmus
  • China Scholarship Council funding opportunities