"Who is that woman who comes to all the games and talks to you?" field hockey teammates kept asking Christina Williams last year.

"When I told them she was my freshman adviser, they were like, 'Wow, we don't even know who our advisers are.' "

Williams is one of the lucky ones. Her adviser, Shannon Moffat, staff associate for chemistry professor Carl Djerassi, makes a point of being visible to her seven assigned students. Moffat takes her advising group to dinners, sends them birthday cards and makes quarterly appointments to meet with them and student advising associate Shad Ahmed to discuss course loads. When advisees can't make a meeting because of conflicting schedules, Moffat goes to them--rooting for Williams at a home game or sitting through a drizzling rain to applaud advisee Ava Roy in an outdoor play.

Moffat's support has made Williams's experience with the freshman advising system overwhelmingly positive. But many students--like Williams's friends on the field hockey team--apparently have little contact with their advisers. As the Stanford Daily noted in a recent editorial that called for changes in the advising system, "When asked, most Stanford students remember one thing about the freshman advising system: the quarterly quest for the approval code."

Although freshmen and sophomores are having more contact with faculty in Stanford Introductory Studies seminars, fewer and fewer freshmen have faculty for advisers. Lori White, director of undergraduate advising, told the Faculty Senate in October that only 42 of the University's 200-plus frosh advisers are faculty; the rest are staff, alumni and other volunteers. That's a significant decline since 1995, when faculty made up 30 percent of advisers.

The problem, says White, has to do with expectations: University publications indicate that freshmen will be advised by faculty. As long-time frosh adviser Russell Berman, associate dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, puts it, "We certainly should have our practice in alignment with our promises."

Under the current system, freshmen are assigned an adviser who provides guidance until they declare a major--typically at the end of their sophomore year. But White is floating the idea that freshman and sophomore advising be "decoupled," with staff continuing to provide the bulk of frosh advising and sophomores turning to faculty members in their areas of academic interest for advice.

"Freshmen are walked through the nuts and bolts of requirements and get the lay of the land as far as classes go," Berman says about the conceptual structure of the current system. And staff can ably guide students around those signposts, he adds.

But sophomores, Berman says, "are moving toward more reflective conversations about educational goals, professional aspirations and opportunities at the Uni-versity--conversations which are best undertaken in discussion with faculty."

White has convened a committee on residential education and advising and asked members to report back with recommendations. They could take a leaf from Shannon Moffat's play book and try getting out to a few home games and drama productions.