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Voices of the Global Community

Practice What We Preach: Advising and the Hiring Process

Thomas S. Edwards, Thomas College

"Good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience."  -Richard Light, Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (2001).

Good advising is often underestimated in the college experience, and we can trace part of the problem to the role which advising plays-or doesn't play-in the recruitment of new faculty. If we value good advising but fail to include it as part of our hiring process, we miss an excellent opportunity to influence the culture of our institutions.

The hiring process - and the stated criteria we use to measure candidates - reflect the values of our institution. So where does advising fit in? Is the importance of advising reflected in our hiring practice? Do we define advising as a key characteristic of our ideal candidate, or does it function more as an afterthought, relegated to a lower-tier status after research, teaching, and collegiality?

In recent years, the hiring process for faculty has seen dramatic shifts, especially at institutions that emphasize quality teaching and interaction with undergraduate students. Search committees review a candidate's teaching experience in addition to their research agenda. Samples of student evaluations and teaching statements are commonly reviewed. Many institutions now require teaching demonstrations.

The role of advising in the hiring process is often less prominent, however. Part of the problem lies in the lack of a commonly-held definition of advising and the fact that advising models differ widely across institutions. Some rely primarily on professional staff advisors. Others may define advising as concerned with course registration and thus may lack a more integrated approach with Student Affairs. Many institutions lack a formal way to recognize the advising provided by adjunct faculty or teaching assistants.

It is important that hiring committees understand that these different models will produce a great deal of variability related to advising within the applicant pool. At the same time, this variability allows us to explore what candidates understand about advising in general, and how they will be expected to perform at their new institution.

The first step comes in the formulation of the job description and the advertisement. Does the institution have a clear definition of advising roles and clear expectations of faculty contributions to that activity? As a committee designs its documents for a search, is advising included in a way that accurately reflects the qualities and experience the institution seeks with regards to advising?

If advising is expected, placing a brief mention in the ad alerts candidates to the importance of advising at the institution and signals that advising will be one of the criteria that will be used in their evaluation. The simple mention of advising in a job announcement (e.g., 'Evidence of successful undergraduate teaching and advising preferred') allows a search committee to include advising in all stages of the process: in the initial review of candidates, in preliminary telephone interviews, and in on-campus conversations.

Open-ended questions for candidates during an interview allow them to speak about their advising experiences, whether as part of a defined responsibility, or through more informal interactions with students. Asking a candidate to 'tell us about your advising experience at your last position' also encourages the members of the hiring committee to comment on their own institution's practices related to advising. The committee gains a clearer picture of how a candidate interacts with students, and candidates understand better how advising functions at the new institution.

The process shouldn't stop there, however. Reference calls can include questions related to a candidate's experience with advising, and new faculty orientation can include time devoted to advising practices, technical support, and professional development opportunities for advising.

An integrated approach to advising that begins with the hiring process sends the message that advising is central to what we do. Making a good match between a candidate and an institution is difficult enough. But if we fail to be explicit in our hiring practice about the expectations we have for advising, we run the risk of a disconnect between a candidate and our institution in an area that is critical to the educational process.

When teaching institutions highlight teaching in their hiring process, they send a message about the value they place on good faculty-student interaction in the classroom. When advising institutions begin to do the same, we may see a similar shift in the profile of advising on our campuses. We must practice what we preach: if we value quality advising in the way we work, a simple first step is to practice it in the way we hire.

Thomas S. Edwards
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Thomas College
edwardst@thomas.edu


From the President: Strengthening and Building NACADA

Susan Campbell, NACADA President 

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While it hardly seems possible, Regional Conferences are just around the corner and I know that conference chairs and committees are busy gearing up for another year of successful meetings. In my opinion, this is the most exciting part of the year for it provides opportunities for us to share with our regional colleagues practices that have worked and to discuss ideas of mutual importance. These conferences also demonstrate - through their continued growth and development - that the member-driven nature of NACADA is indeed powerful.

As a Board, we continue to work on those items noted in my December 2006 article for Academic Advising Today: building on and supporting goals and initiatives of the past, reviewing and codifying policies and procedures to strengthen and sustain our future as an association, and continuing to broaden our reach within higher education as the professional association for academic advising. I want to use this article as a way to update you on the Board's progress with regard to these items.

First, the Board continues to build on and support existing NACADA goals and initiatives. To begin this, as a Board we agreed to meet monthly to broaden our communication with each other. These telephone conference calls have been extremely helpful in keeping us all more in touch with the activities of the Association. Most recently, the Board approved the piloting of the Emerging Leaders Program. This approval allows this important initiative to move forward to achieve its intent - to provide opportunities as well as support for NACADA members to engage in leadership positions. Of particular interest to this program is supporting NACADA members from underrepresented groups.

Second, our Bylaws Task Force, chaired by Board Member Jenny Bloom, has been meeting regularly to identify issues that would more closely align the NACADA By-Laws with the governance structure of the Association. They will be presenting their report - and recommendations - at the Board's mid-year meeting in late March. The Policy Development Task Force, chaired by Board Member Jane Jacobson, is organizing to do its work in identifying policy areas for the Association that should be developed in order to codify and guide practice. At the mid-year Board meeting, we will focus on the work of these Task Forces, as well as on the Association's Strategic Plan. In the end, all four - By-Laws, Governance, Policy, and Planning - are as important to our future sustainability as they are inextricably intertwined.

Third, as an Association we continue to strengthen our ties with our brother/sister associations and expand our voice within the international community. With regard to the former, we continue to support the work of others with regard to the student experience. In response to a request for a recommendation, our own Jocelyn Harney (Dean of Student Services, College of DuPage), along with NACADA Past President Betsy McCalla-Wriggins (Higher Education Specialist for the Center for the Advancement of Learning, Rowan University), will be joining a National Resource Center teleconference in April. NACADA Vice-President Nancy Walburn will represent NACADA at the national meeting of the Collegiate Honors Councils.

With regard to the international community, we continue to build upon the strength of our relationship with our Canadian Colleagues. In April, NACADA has been again invited to participate in the international conference on academic advising in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; in May, the Higher Education Academy will host its annual conference at the University of Edinburgh, with co-sponsorship by NACADA; we also continue to receive inquiries about the work of NACADA, those most recent come from Australia. We are also considering pursuing publications that will highlight international higher education and advising practices. All of this is proof positive that academic advising continues to grow in importance in higher education AND that NACADA continues to be viewed as the leader in academic advising!

With this update, I wish you all the best as 2007 begins. May your year be full of academic advising successes!

Susan Campbell, President
National Academic Advising Association
scamp@usm.maine.edu


From the Executive Director: Get Involved in Your Association!

Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, NACADA Executive Director 

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2006 was a record setting year, and 2007 will bring even more resources and services to NACADA members! 357 members are serving the Association as elected, appointed, and willing volunteers including steering committees, Region chairs, Region conference chairs and committees, Commission and Interest Group chairs, Advisory Boards, Task Forces, Review Board Members, publication authors and editors, Council Members/Division Representatives, and Board Members. In addition, countless others write for Academic Advising Today and the NACADA Journal; serve as presenters at Conferences, Institutes, Seminars, and Webinars, and volunteer during the events to ensure their success. A BIG THANK YOU to all of you and an invitation to others to get involved in your Association! These volunteers are the core of this organization and set the agenda for the work of the Executive Office. And, this year they have quite an agenda for us! 

On that agenda this year are numerous events, publications, and management tasks. As Susan states in her column, we will be working closely with the Board and Council to strengthen the foundation documents of this growing organization to ensure its continued growth and development. In addition, there are eight publications in development with two Spring releases - monographs on Advising First Year Students and a Guidebook for New Advising Professionals, the already completed Data-Driven Decision Making National Seminar, Academic Advising Administrators' Institute, and Assessment of Advising Institute; the upcoming Summer Institutes on Academic Advising in Burlington, VT, and Salt Lake City, UT; this year's Annual Conference in Baltimore in October; the new initiatives with the NCAA that include an Advising Student Athletes Institute in Colorado Springs in May and an on-line course already in progress; and our popular and expanding Webinar series. Our pilot series of Webinars has proven quite successful and we have learned a lot about what our members want, so an Advisory Board has been appointed to assist in the development of the Webinars and how we might use this medium to deliver additional services to our members. Add these efforts to our regular work with membership renewals, event registrations, monthly Highlights publication, finance and budget, Clearinghouse maintenance and expansion, responding to member questions, and planning for the future and you can be assured that your Executive Office is keeping busy!

We rely heavily on member comments about what is needed, so if you would like to see a particular topic addressed in some format or have an idea for a new resource that needs to be developed, let us know or convey that information to anyone in a leadership position and ask them to advance it for consideration. Your daily interactions with students provide the best opportunity for identifying issues of concern for you and your colleagues throughout the world and keep NACADA on the cutting edge and THE LEADER in academic advising.

Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, Executive Director
National Academic Advising Association
(785) 532-5717
nacada@ksu.edu


NACADA Announces New Emerging Leader Program

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The NACADA Board of Directors recently approved a new program,The Emerging Leader Program, which has the goal of increasing the number of leaders from diverse groups in elected and appointed positions. The program will encourage members from diverse groups to get involved in leadership opportunities in their area of interest or expertise and to outfit the participants with the skills, tools, and resources as well as provide intentional and personal mentoring relationship with a past or current NACADA leader.

Ten Emerging Leaders will be selected annually to participate in the two-year program. In addition to partnering each participant with a NACADA leader in a mentoring relationship, selected participants will be provided funding to attend the Annual Conference in the first year of the program and meet with their mentors to develop an Action Plan for their two years in the program. Ten mentors will also be selected to work directly with the Emerging Leaders during this two year time.

Participants in the Emerging Leader program will be expected to:

  • Agree to a two-year obligation with a mentor
  • When applying for the program, provide information on goals, needs, level of participation desired (state, regional, national, etc), and any specific level of expertise wanted in a mentor
  • With guidance and support, provide a written plan for year-long leadership development to their assigned mentor
  • Provide monthly progress reports to the mentor on goals
  • Attend at least one state, regional, or national conference with mentor and while attending, meet one-on-one with the mentor to discuss future expectations and/or past progress
  • Attend gathering at regional or national conferences to meet others in the program
  • Become involved in a NACADA leadership role at whatever level participant is comfortable
  • At whatever level a participant is involved, provide monthly progress reports to the mentor
  • Participate in mid-year and end of year evaluations with the mentor
  • Conduct evaluation of the mentor and the program at the end of each year and report those evaluations to NACADA
  • Produce, with the mentor's help, a presentation, article, or some other form of communication on the participant's experience in the program
  • Assist in the selection/assignment process of future participants and mentors as the participant is leaving the program

The mentors in the program will be expected to:

  • Agree to a two-year obligation with a participant
  • Attend mentor training at the Annual Conference
  • Make personal contact with the participant as soon as one is assigned
  • Map out joint expectations and obligations, the role of each person involved, and what will be done over the next three years
  • Make contact with participant, via phone or email or letter, at least once a month to discuss progress or to check in
  • Provide information and insight into the workings of NACADA
  • Inform participant of leadership opportunities in NACADA and encourage him/her to take part at the participant's comfort level
  • Participate in mid-year and end-of-year evaluations of program's progress
  • Whenever possible, meet one-on-one with participant to discuss future expectations and/or past progress
  • Attend gathering at regional or national conferences to introduce the participant to others in the program
  • Assist participant in producing a presentation for regional or national conferences or an article for the NACADA Journal regarding the participant's plan, learning outcomes, and reasons why the participant became involved
  • Act as a source of general information and someone the participant can speak to about career plans and concerns
  • Assist in the selection/assignment process of participants to mentors as their participant is leaving the program.

Applications and nominations for Emerging Leader participants and mentors will be accepted beginning April 1, 2007. For additional information on the program, please go to www.nacada.ksu.edu.


Changing Culture: A New Program for Liberal Arts Advisement at an Urban Community College

Glenn Miller and Holly Messitt, Borough of Manhattan Community College / City University of New York

As greater numbers of students enter our institutions, retention and ethical service to these students become even larger issues. Bradburn (2002) indicates that approximately one-third of entering students leave our institutions without a credential; these numbers are even higher for minority (Hodge & Pickron, 2004) and community college students (ACT, 2005). Although current scholarship (Lotkowski, et al. 2005) on academic retention shows that a relationship with an academic advisor helps to increase retention, many students do not take advantage of this resource. One study showed that 34% of graduating seniors had never met with an advisor and that 19% of graduating seniors had met with an academic advisor three or fewer times ('Help!', 2006). Again, minority students pose an even greater challenge since many, especially those experiencing academic difficulties, are unwilling to seek advice because they fear that they may appear weak or they are afraid that they will be a nuisance ('Help!', 2006).

The retention rate at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) mirrors these alarming trends. In 2003, BMCC received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Title V program for Hispanic-serving institutions to strengthen academic advising as a tool to retain students. Our Title V program focuses on liberal arts students, traditionally the students most likely to leave BMCC within the first year. Freshman to sophomore retention for BMCC liberal arts students is 51% as opposed to a 60% retention rate for students 'housed' in one of the more defined degree programs such as nursing. We asked why. Traditionally, BMCC liberal arts advisees were assigned arbitrarily to one of the liberal arts departments. There was no guarantee that a student would see the same professor year-to-year, so there was no continuity in the student's advisement; no one kept track of a student's progress, special needs, or interests. In the process, BMCC clearly let students slip through unnoticed.

The goal of the Title V program is to address these concerns and prepare students to become more dynamic decision makers, thereby increasing retention. The program's goals include training that encourages faculty to accept greater responsibility for employing advisement strategies and to become more knowledgeable about taking a developmental approach to their advisement. In particular, with a faculty that is 60% white and a student population that is 90% minority, i.e., African American (34%), Latino/a (26%), Asian (11%), and other ethnic minorities (18%), advisors must develop sensitivity to the needs of BMCC 's diverse student population. To accomplish these goals, our program provides faculty development, technological support, and educational planners housed within the Academic Advisement and Transfer Center.

Strategy

Faculty were accustomed to advising different students each semester and emphasizing course selection. They needed to acquire new skills if they were to advise the same student cohort throughout their time at the college. To prepare for this change, faculty members participated in a three-day workshop that stressed NACADA's Core Values, provided information from various campus offices, e.g., financial aid and counseling, and received training in the computer software used to track advisement sessions. Faculty also participated in follow-up workshops throughout the semester to hone their advising skills and, perhaps more importantly, to work with other faculty thus forming a cohesive group capable of affecting the desired cultural change on our campus.

In addition to faculty training, we implemented a system to record the outcomes of advisement sessions so that both advisors and advisees can review student goals and the results of previous sessions. In this way, advisors can focus on student changes that have occurred since the last session. Software facilitates communication among advisors and between advisors and advisees; students' statements to advisors about goals and advisors' recommendations to students are recorded.

Another innovative aspect of the project is the use of educational planners who serve as liaisons between the advisors and advisees. The educational planners assist students when their advisors are not on campus, serve as a contact person for advisors seeking advisement information for special situations, and assist with recruitment of students into the program.

Assessment and results

Certain measures provide short term indicators of progress towards our goal, including the number of faculty who have completed the training program (62 so far), the number of students who have been advised in the program to date (currently approximately 1200 students), and usage statistics for the advising tracking software. Students also complete an advisement satisfaction survey each semester. This instrument, essentially the same one that has been used for many years, helps us compare student satisfaction levels with historical data. Faculty advisors complete another survey which has been used as a formative assessment tool that has lead to changes in some of our processes.

The phase-in of a new advisement model has important implications for BMCC. First, it has facilitated assessment since we now collect outcomes data for students advised in our program and compare that data to similar data for students not in the program. Secondly, we ensure that the advising workload for faculty in our developmental program does not differ significantly from the load of advisors using the traditional advisement model. We believe that the efficiency gained from recording advisement session outcomes aids our advisors as does the existence of educational planners. Finally, the gradual phase-in makes our attempt to change the campus culture evolutionary rather than revolutionary thus giving us time to adjust our program as necessary to counter criticism from entrenched campus interest groups.

Conclusion

The example of a grant-funded program designed to improve advisement shows the many benefits of approaching reform in a systemic way. Conducting a thorough needs assessment allowed us to choose one 'manageable' area for the focus of our efforts. We were able to target our proposal thus permitting a multi-faceted approach towards solving the perceived problem. Setting measurable outcomes and assessment implementation sharpened our focus on providing a program that produces direct benefits to our students and our institution.

Holly Messitt
Borough of Manhattan Community College/City University of New York
HMessitt@bmcc.cuny.edu

Glenn Miller
Borough of Manhattan Community College/City University of New York
gmiller@bmcc.cuny.edu

References

ACT. (2005) 2005 Retention/Completion Summary Tables. Retrieved November 9, 2006 from http://www.act.org/path/policy/pdf/05retain_trends.pdf.

Bradburn, E. M. (2002). Short-term enrollment in postsecondary education: Student background and institutional differences for early departure, 1996-1998. Washington, DC : U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved November 9, 2006 fromhttp://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2003153

Chaney, B., Muraskin, L. D., Cahalan, M. W., Goodwin, D. (1998). Helping the progress of disadvantaged students in higher education: The federal Student Support Services Program. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 20 (3): 197-215. Retrieved Sept. 25, 2006, from JStor.

Frank, K. S. (2000). Ethical considerations and obligations. In V. N. Gordon and W. R. Habley (Eds). Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Frost, S. H. (1991). Academic Advising for Student Success: A System of Shared Responsibility. Washington, D.C.: ERIC: Clearinghouse on Higher Education/George Washington University.

Frost, S. H. (2000). Historical and Philosophical Foundations for Academic Advising. In V. N. Gordon and W. R. Habley (Eds).  Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Gordon, V. N., and Habley, W. R. (Eds). (2000). Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Habley, W. R. (2000). Current practices in academic advising. In V. N. Gordon and W. R. Habley (Eds).  Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Help! Students who need it; students who seek it. (2006, May). The Teaching Professor. Retrieved Sept. 25, 2006 from Academic Search Premier/EBSCO.

Hodge, T. V., and Pickron, C. (2004). Preparing students for success in the academy. Black Issues in Higher Education 21 (20): 130. Retrieved Sept. 25, 2006 from ERIC.

Lotkowski, V. A., Robbins, S. B., and Noeth, R. J. (2004). The Role of Academic and Non-Academic in Improving College Retention. Retrieved November 9, 2006 fromhttp://qed.ncat.edu/beams/act-retention-study.pdf


A New Trend in Advising: ESL Advising

Aura Rios Erickson, ESL / International Student Advising Commission Chair

Aura Rios Erickson.jpgIs our profession facing a new trend? Are we ready for it?

When academic advisors think of ESL advising, they may think in terms of working with the International Program Office on their campuses. However, it does not matter if advisors assist students in engineering, nursing, their first year, or those who are undecided about their major, most academic advisors have had contact with students whose first language is not English.

Stephen Sahlman (2002) noted that U.S. Census Bureau figures show an '11.3 million (or 57 percent) increase (of foreign-born individuals in the U.S.), from 19.8 million in 1990 to 31.1 million in 2000, is unprecedented in the history of the United States, both numerically and proportionately' Student ethnic patterns will become even more diverse in the future. Academic advisors will see more students whose first language is not English (ESL). Are these students different from other students? Definitely, there are differences in terms of their needs. We, as advisors, must be aware of them; we must prepare ourselves to help these students.

Language proficiency should be our first concern when advising students. Language proficiency comprises the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a language. An advisor or instructor might assume that a student who speaks and understands English perfectly is proficient. It is especially important to note that many students come from countries where they learn only to 'speak' English but fail to learn how to write or read it. This is true for students who come from some African countries.

Also, it is possible to assume that a student is not proficient in English because he/she has difficulty speaking or understanding spoken English. Students who come from some Asian countries i.e., Korea, China, Vietnam, Japan, etc., might face a greater challenge trying to express themselves given the linguistic patterns of their native languages. It is likely that many of these immigrant students have spent several years learning to read and write English in their home countries.

Therefore, it is important that we obtain accurate information about each student's proficiency before developing an educational plan or class schedule with these students. Some of the most common assessment tools used by educational institutions include the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), COMPASS - ESL, and Michigan Language Test (MILT). These tools offer a comprehensive assessment of student proficiency in English.

Other factors that can influence proficiency are length of residence in the country, previous educational background, work experience and student age. Learning challenges faced by an older adult with little formal education who has lived in the United States for six years are quite different from those faced by a young, newly-arrived immigrant who was a working professional in his/her country and who possesses a strong educational background.

As advisors, we need to continually educate ourselves about other cultures so that we can connect with our students. We must be aware that individuals from different cultures view personal relationships in different ways. Advisors might find students who delay asking questions or resist becoming engaged in developing educational goals. These students may view advisors as possessing a position of authority. They expect our guidance and hold our relationship with them in the utmost respect. Sometimes, these students will not seek help out of a sense of embarrassment ('losing face') or shame.

Conversely, other students might come to advising appointments with their parents, children, spouses or close relatives. In some cultures, educational decisions are made by the group. At times, what will seem 'intrusive' in our culture is not seen that way in another culture. Working together is how they relate to each other. In these situations, our challenge is to welcome all parties while honoring the student's individual educational interests and needs.

Advisors should possess information regarding culturally relevant community resources. ESL students need advice, support and guidance regarding their educational future. In addition, these students may need assistance making a cultural adjustment. This adjustment period might involve experiencing anger, grief, and dealing with the loss they experience living in a different environment. Some students are able to adjust relatively quickly to their new environment. However, others go through a long period of transition and adjustment. Students who are going through difficult times often welcome help from someone who speaks their own language or understands their native culture.

Last, it is important that advisors have some basic knowledge of immigration-related terminology and/or information. The immigration issue has gained prominence in our national debate. Several states have instituted laws regarding undocumented immigrants. Some states allow undocumented immigrants to pay the 'resident' cost of college tuition. Other states have stricter rules for undocumented immigrants. It is important that we know our institution and state policies regarding this important issue.

NACADA provides a wealth of information to all advisors. The ESL / International Student Advising Commission provides a forum for advisors in need of information for dealing with situations with this particular student population. Members can join the commission list serve to post questions or concerns. Advisors who work with this student population should consider joining this commission.

Aura Rios Erickson
Shoreline Community College
aerickso@shoreline.edu

Reference

Sahlman, Stephen. (2002). Immigration to the United States: 2002 Update. Population Resource Center.


Untapped Talent

Peggy Jordan, Two-Year Colleges Commission Chair

Peggy Jordan.jpgA young man dropped out of high school and took whatever job he could to pay his rent. He worked in numerous bars beating out jazz tunes on the piano. He developed quite a following. One night a tipsy customer, a regular at the bar, demanded that he sing. The piano player protested, saying he was not a singer. However, the bar owner encouraged him to sing in order to make the customer happy. The piano player sang to an audience for the first time. This 'opportunity' led to the world famous singing career of Nat King Cole (Cole, 1971).

Community colleges routinely offer opportunities to individuals with 'untapped talent.' Open admissions means that students have the opportunity to attend college even if:

  • no one in their family attended college
  • no one ever saw them as 'college material'
  • they did not score well on a standardized admissions test
  • they did not perform well in high school
  • they did not graduate from high school
  • they were suspended from another college
  • they are older than the 'traditional' student
  • they have to work full time and attend class at night
  • they have serious doubts about their own ability to succeed in college.

Many students attend community colleges against all odds and yet they succeed. This success is due in no small part to the effort and dedication of community college advisors, faculty and staff. The culture of the community college is one that embraces, engages, and elevates students. As soon as a student enters a community college, he or she is welcomed. Welcome comes from staff at the information desk, from a recruiter in prospective student services, from the student worker at the admissions desk, from an academic advisor in a central advising office, and from faculty members walking down the halls.

I was first employed at a community college as an adjunct instructor. I taught two classes and had only ventured into the part of the college in which I taught classes. One day I decided to explore other areas of the campus. I was standing in a hallway, trying to decide which route to take. Behind me came a smiling voice who said, 'You look lost. Can I help you find anything?' I had to laugh. It was true that I was lost, but I explained that I was just exploring. I was given a quick explanation of the room numbering system and the logic of the 'grid system' on which the campus was planned. When telling a friend about my experience, I said, 'I didn't even have to ask for help. Someone just recognized that I might need assistance and offered it freely.' For a first-generation, non-traditional, academically underprepared, or uncertain new student, getting help without even having to ask can make the difference between starting a college career and leaving without ever trying.

Community colleges work hard to engage students in learning. Students often have to first learn how to be a college student, how college is different than high school, how to ask for help, and what resources are available. Faculty members provide opportunities to get to know their students and listen to their concerns. Faculty members get involved as sponsors of student organizations. They meet with study groups and offer tips on studying for their class. Faculty members call or email students who are not attending to find out what is interfering with the student's performance. They challenge students to live up to the students' own dreams of success. They show students how to beat the odds.

2-yrCM.jpgCommunity colleges do a great job elevating students. They let students know that they are doing a great job. Almost every office in a community college has a way of rewarding and celebrating student achievement. Sometimes the reward is through scholarships. Other times it is through articles in the paper, pictures displayed on a 'Wall of Fame', plaques or certificates for being 'outstanding' in something. Before long, students begin to be impressed with themselves. They begin to view themselves differently. They begin to see themselves as 'college students,' and they begin to feel comfortable in the college and realize the successes that familiarity can bring. Confidence gives students the opportunity to tap into their own unknown resources. These may be intellectual, social, or personal resources. Through these previously unknown talents, community college students can begin to find their voice and sing.

Peggy Jordan
Oklahoma City Community College
PJordan@occc.edu

References

Cole, Maria. (1971). Nat King Cole; an intimate biography. New York. W. Morrow.


Confronting Change? What Would Dorothy Do? (WWDD?)

Lee Kem, Advising Education Majors Commission Chair

Lee Kem.jpgDorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, was transported from her beloved Kansas to a foreign land where she met several strange characters including the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. As academic advisors, we may sometimes think that we have been transported to a foreign land filled with some equally unique characters. However, even in 'Kansas,' change occurs, and we may find ourselves required to navigate a new 'Land Of Oz.' What can we learn from Dorothy and her three companions? Four questions will help us discover direction in our journey.

What has changed? When in a 'foreign land,' we may want to get 'back home' to the familiar. But, sometimes this just isn't possible; things may never be the same. In advising, we are conditioned to hear, assess, and categorize information and situations into familiar areas. However, our students may be different, our administration may change, and institutional requirements may no longer be the same. Yet, we may keep doing the same things expecting the same results in this changed environment. WWDD? 'Dorothy' would assess the situation to determine the areas of change. 'Dorothy' would gather information from those more familiar with the territory. Rather than run away from change, Dorothy did, and we should, embrace the changes and learn to cope in the new situation.

What do I need to learn? It was a new day for Dorothy in the Land of Oz; finding her way to the Wizard required new ways of thinking and doing. What is required to adapt to our new situations? There is much to learn! Read/study/learn about new expectations and our new environments. Participate in professional development opportunities, learn more productive ways to cope with change and stress, expand our own comfort zones.

Where can I find partners to help me learn? Don't be a Lone Ranger - Dorothy knew the importance of talking to, and sharing with, others. Everyone needs a support network for encouragement and direction. WWDD? Dorothy gathered a support network of friends who helped and supported each other in tough times. A network is helpful in finding resources and essential when asking assistance. Creation of a NACADA Allied Group at your institution may be a first step; a campus-wide advisor group could be a beneficial avenue for support.

How can I promote my own health and growth? Reduce stress: seek balance, learn to say 'no' to unreasonable requests; get regular health checkups, eat correctly, and exercise. Change increases stress levels as it decreases health and personal growth. Schedule 'alone time' and take occasional breaks; advisors are givers - we also need to receive.

What would Dorothy do? She sought assistance and gathered companions who helped with her heart, mind and body. She utilized the resources and support group available to her. SEdMajCM.jpghe gained courage from the Lion, emotional stability from the Tin Man, and wisdom from the Scarecrow. As Dorothy discovered, in her ruby slippers she had the wisdom and answers all along. We each have abilities deep within us. We should tap into our strength and bravely go down the yellow brick road toward growth through change.

Lee Kem
Murray State University
Lee.Kem@coe.murraystate.edu


Vantage Point banner.jpgSink or Swim: Equipping the e-Tutor for the Online World

Jane Fawkes, The College of Estate Management, England

Editor's Note: 'Tutors' are the British equivalent to North American 'Academic Advisors.' Jane Fawkes presented on this topic at the Second Annual Conference on Personal Tutoring, St John University College, York, May 2006.

With the continuing development of online teaching, tutors are encouraged to take on the role of e-tutor and to provide tutoring and personal support through this mechanism. However, what works in a classroom does not always work online. With the loss of face-to-face contact and the visual impact that it brings, the question must be asked 'What makes a good e-tutor?'

As 'instructors move from presenters to managers of activities' (Collis and Moonen, 2001), instructors are required to shift the way they teach; they must adapt to a new environment. So too must tutors adapt. Increasingly students expect that their tutor will be available online 24-7.

This article focuses on the training and skills required to engage students online, as well as common difficulties encountered. Here we focus on the training programme that has been used at the College of Estate Management.

Background. The College of Estate Management is a distance learning college based in Reading, England. The College has a team of internal tutors who are supported in course delivery by external tutors. The external tutor primarily marks assignment and examination scripts, as well as assists with occasional face-to-face teaching and writing course materials. The external tutor has been remote from students, which has led to a sens of isolation both for the students as they struggle with the demands of distance learning and for the tutor who is removed from the student cohort.

Three years ago the College introduced the Graduate Development Programme that utilized a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to form a community of learners online and provide more contact and support with the external tutors. To facilitate the development of this community, students were divided into groups of 25-30 and learning activities were written. Students were encouraged to discuss case studies within their tutor group; external tutors were invited to become an e-tutor for each group.

Aim for the e-Tutor. The e-tutor was to help build and develop this online community of learners. 'Online educators who understand that safe, nurturing environments are foremost in contributing to learners' happiness, sense of comfort, and ultimately rates of completion place the creation of community high on their list of priorities' (Conrad, 2002). Students who participate in online discussions benefit from the learning experience. Learning online is about 'learning as participation. The process of being a member of a community' (Collis and Moonen, 2001).

E-tutors were challenged to facilitate interdependence between the group as a whole and encourage participation online.

Training ProgrammeBefore the e-tutors commenced working on the VLE, the College ran a training programme. This was designed to build confidence in the basic skills needed to tutor online. The course focussed on:

  • E-moderation skills.
  • The importance of getting the group talking.
  • Use of ice- breakers.
  • How to encourage participation in an asynchronous environment.
  • The tutor not being the focal point of the group.
  • How to facilitate discussion.

Struggling to Build the Online Community. Whilst some tutors quickly adapted to being an 'e-tutor', others - despite the training - struggled, both with the technology and the skills required to encourage participation. E-tutors were unsure when and how they should respond to messages; some did not like the increased student contact brought by the VLE. Tutors expressed a sense of frustration that not all students chose to participate and did not become a part of the online community.

'It is a pity more students did not participate on the VLE. It was fairly evident that those who did not participate did not learn.'

Just as the e-tutors were frustrated by the lack of student participation, so students were frustrated by their perception of lack of tutor involvement. Students expected their tutor to respond immediately to posted messages and were frustrated by the lack of feedback given by some e-tutors.

'If any of the students posts a question for his/her tutor on the VLE.the least useful response is 'what does the group think the answer is?' The group doesn't have the spare time to find out.'

A common problem with online learning is the student who 'lurks' online. However, in the initial stages of the course, we encountered the problem of the 'lurking e-tutor'. The College uses Blackboard as its VLE, and whilst it shows how many times a message has been read, it does not show who has read the message. From the Course Statistics it was possible to see that some of the e-tutors were reading the messages but not posting anything to the group. The community became frustrated by the tutor's lack of presence and quickly were disenfranchised from the learning process.

Developing the e-tutor. In the light of feedback received, e-tutor training was reviewed and revised so that the College could better equip tutors in how to develop the online community. E-tutors are now encouraged to regularly leave 'virtual footprints', a marker on the VLE to show that they have read the messages and are participating online. This footprint can take the form of an encouraging comment, initial feedback, or leading the discussion in a new direction. Whilst the group should not revolve around the tutor, we have learnt the importance of the e-tutor being persistent in their online behaviour.

Kearsley (2000) emphasised that 'If the Instructor regularly posts messages in the discussion forum..this increases student involvement and participation in a course.' Our experience affirms that participation of the e-tutor is critical.

Sink or Swim - the Challenge? Virtual opportunities for learning are significant. The challenge for the e-tutor is how to adapt tutoring to this environment; it can be both demanding and time consuming. 'The task of mediating group activity, while promoting some kind of kinship among learners, is challenging in the extreme' (Khan 1997).

At the College we found that changing the role of the external tutor removes the sense of isolation felt by both tutor and student. Initial training is critical to success as is reflection and monitoring how to build online communities. This has led to the development of the training workshop programme now offered to tutors in a range of areas such as 'Encouraging Participation' that further develops online skills.

Feedback received from a recent training event emphasised this point:

'Terrific day yesterday, very worthwhile and lots of interesting comments in the pot, certainly gives a sense of being in a community of tutor.''

Jane Fawkes
Course Development Manager
The College of Estate Management
Whiteknights
Reading
RG6 6AW
www.cem.ac.uk
j.e.fawkes@cem.ac.uk

References

Collis B, Moonen J (2001). Flexible Learning in a Digital World, Routledge Falmer, London.

Kearsley, G. (2000). Learning and Teaching in Cyberspace. Retrieved November 10, 2006 from http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/cyber.htm.

Khan B (1997). Web-Based Instruction, Educational Technology Publications Inc, New Jersey.

Conrad, D. (2002). Community, Social Presence and Engagement in Online Learning. A Dissertation cited in T McInnerney J.M., Roberts T.S. (2004) Online Learning: Social Interaction and the Creation of a Sense of a Community, Educational Technology and Society, 7(3) 73-81, retrieved May 2005.


Advising Without Walls: An Introduction to Facebook as an Advising Tool

Julie Traxler, Rutgers University 

Julie Traxler.jpgVirginia Gordon (1992) advocated using the telephone as an advising tool, noting that "adviser and student contacts happen in as many settings as many times as the student's needs and the institution's calendar dictate" (p. 63). Since then, Web-based technology has expanded where and how advisors can connect with their students. Media articles have made much of the new phenomenon of the social networking site Facebook © (www.facebook.com), concentrating particularly on privacy, security concerns and bad behavior (Bugeja, 2006; Finder, 2006; Mullin, 2006). With over 10 million users across 40,000 college, high school and work-based networks, Facebook is clearly a large part of students' lives and their connection to our campuses. Few discussions, however, have included how advisors can use Facebook as a tool to enhance advising efforts and the advisor-student relationship.

Serendipitously, Facebook was launched in 2004, coinciding with the publication of advising research that reinforced what many of us suspected all along: students are more concerned with advisor style, including the willingness to develop a relationship, than with specific advising style (Mottarella, Fritzsche & Cerabino, 2004). In 2005, students who were tickled by my questions about Facebook became my guides to the site. When they showed me that new students who had not even registered for classes had created Facebook profiles, I began to wonder how the site might actually expand traditional advising efforts. Below are examples of how I and other advisors have begun to use Facebook and its features to inform, organize, educate and connect with students.

Inform.  Facebook offers two direct profile-to-profile communication options: My Messages for private conversations and The Wall for public postings. I use Messages like email to answer questions about requirements or request that students come see me. I find that students respond more quickly because they check Faceboo k more frequently than their email accounts. Wall messages are public, so they are useful for quick reminders. One new student posted a Status update saying she was feeling overwhelmed by college, so I wrote on her Wall to ask how things were going. We continued the conversation face-to-face, but Facebook had given me access to information about her feelings and an easy way to connect.

My Events is a free option for advertising advising programs, like our recent 'How to Succeed in Business.without a Business Major' panel. Events can be sent as invitations to students in my friendship network and are open to all students browsing for campus events. A new Flyers option is not free, but at $5 for 10,000 postings, costs less than ads in many campus newspapers. Online flyers post along the left side of Facebook pages and can celebrate a birthday, advertise a program, or announce the campus-wide launch of a degree audit program.

OrganizeFacebook's Groups function allows anyone to organize participants by a common experience, association or interest. A Group listing includes information about the group, upcoming events, access to discussion boards, and the ability to message group members. Advisors on my campus organize student groups in Facebook to enhance regular group meetings. For tour guides who meet rarely as a full group, the site allows communication for switching tours and answering difficult questions. On campuses with large groups of distance or nontraditional students, an online group organized by major, career interest, or class could help students connect with each other, get questions answered, and feel more connected to the campus community. Many of our Transition seminars for transfer students organize Facebook groups to help those students settle into a large university community.

Advisors can also take advantage of Groups that emerge spontaneously from student interest. By June, over 500 new students to my campus had created and joined almost 10 different Class of 2010 groups: two months before move-in day! Students were posting questions on message boards about placement testing and class scheduling. Who better to answer these questions than an advisor? I also use the Search function to find student profiles and send details about orientation programs to those who had not registered. In October, I revisited the Class of 2010 groups to post information about academic advising opportunities for spring registration.

Educate. Advisors have an obligation to help educate students about the consequences of what they post online. These conversations come more naturally when students know that their advisor is part of their Facebookcommunity. I wrote to one student after reading an online note detailing in harsh language his argument with a coworker. I sympathized with his frustration but pointed out that his posting was not the face that he wanted to present to the community. He responded well to the message and removed the posting. In fact, advisors' presence online may encourage students to self-censor. If students are concerned about what I may see on their profile, then they may think more intentionally about their postings. Since employers are increasingly viewing students' profiles (Finder, 2006), introspection and self-censorship are important lessons.

Connect. Advisors gain an opportunity from Facebook to know and be known as part of the campus community. Interests and hobbies on the profile link to others who share those interests; many students have mentioned our shared love of a book or movie. Others have written to ask about my research interests or my kids, who often appear in my pictures. One colleague announced her son's birth on her Facebook profile and many students posted congratulations on her Wall. Given the time constraints of many advising sessions, this type of connection and knowledge can serve to enhance the advisor-student relationship, a core component in effective developmental advising.

Technology like Facebook can be a tremendous resource for cash- and time-strapped advisors. The uses described above supplement traditional advising for little to no extra cost, but they greatly expand advisor-student contact by bridging distance and time. Virtual sites will never replace face-to-face advising, but if they enable students to connect with advisors in ways which make us more of a resource, we should not ignore this opportunity to expand our educational mission.

Julie Traxler
Rutgers University
traxler@rci.rutgers.edu

The author wishes to thank Jenn Grimm, Annie Seery and Elena Tamanas, the chief architects of her interest in Facebook.

References

Bugeja, M. J. (2006, January 27). Facing the Facebook. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. C1, C4.

Finder, A. (2006, June 11). For some, online persona undermines a resume. The New York Times. Retrieved on June 12, 2006, from http://www2.csusm.edu/fangfang/Teaching/HTMmaterial/Fall07/Online%20Persona%20Undermines%20Resume.pdf

Gordon, V. N. (1992). Handbook of academic advising. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Mottarella, K. E., Fritzsche, B. A., & Cerabino, K. C. (2004). What do students want in advising? A policy capturing stud. NACADA Journal, 24 (1&2), 48-61.

Mullin, Jenine (2006, June). Facebook and disposition assessment. Academic Advising Today 29(2).


to advise you

Felicia ZamoraKathy Thornhill, and Katya Stewart-Sweeney, Colorado State University

How does one describe advising in and as an artistic exploration? The following collaborative effort aims to connect poetry and higher education to represent the unique relationship between a student and advisor through a descriptive mechanism not traditionally used in academic advising journals. The relationship is depicted through the eyes of the advisor

           

to advise you

an office      blank and stagnant      then you enter

we tote labels
in slouching shoulders     in eyes       our daily masks
to use/to not use       we decide

we bare joy/discomfort/pride/shame/goals
on two sides of a desk
fluorescent lights/sunshine/one-bulb-lamp-glows
capture nothing of inner selves
here     in an office       on a campus       suspended
in each other

we banter       over days slept away
nights of Redbull juxtaposed
against differential equations       and dreams
not idyllic REM realms       instead you

barefoot in Mediterranean waters/
crossing the Vltava in Praha /
petting elephants in Zimbabwe
(think bigger)
I tug on your feats       study abroad : only a phrase

we pendulum       on all sides
swing to procure equilibrium

whisper (I'm homesick)       furrowed brow (Tell me)
chuckle (I passed)                      smile (I'm proud of you)
shout (Dude, I'm going to graduate in May!)
we cope                      with eidolons and calamity
loss       of a parent/sibling/friend
demands clawed from duty (military athlete single parent) and pain
not broken bones                      instead you
weighing life in A's and D's/
working three jobs to pay bills/
contemplating suicide
(value yourself)
tailor your path to you            four year plan: only a phrase

here       in an office       on a campus       suspended
mold this environment to you       (only you can) (I adjust with you)

we write us            in instruments
words:       advice       schedule       relationship
instruments to understand
          to forge intimacy

communicative passages
let us explore the same tunnel
let us plan from a moment       amass you
birth to child to high schooler to adult to graduate            to find
          I support you: the you you think you are
                    the you you know
                    the you adorning cap and gown me eyes welling
new beginnings

an office       blank and stagnant       then you enter


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Discovering the Best Way to Institute Change

Carlos Delgadillo, Spokane Falls Community College

I walked into a situation where the two people in the position before me were let go in fairly quick succession. Day-to-day academic advising was done by unionized, tenured, faculty counselors with a long history of doing things 'a certain way.' They really did not appreciate a non-counselor advising students, much less administering the college's academic advising program (my assigned task). Unionized faculty, while very devoted to students, were not contractually required to advise. Those who did advise were paid extra and usually scheduled after 2:30 p. This meant that retired faculty were employed to supplement the advisor corps. Faculty advisors were disheartened because there had not been advisor training in years. It was, needless to say, a tough, politically-charged situation. What should I do?

Very rarely do I recommend a service without reservation, even a service provided by an incredible professional organization like NACADA, but the NACADA Consultants Bureau provided answers to what ailed our college's advising program. Let me explain how they helped us and how they might help you.

Soon after being hired, my boss was kind enough to send me to the Academic Advising Administrators' Institute and the How to Effectively Engage Faculty in Academic Advising Seminar. Both the Institute and the Seminar were extremely valuable to me as a brand new advising administrator. However, when I returned to my institution and tried to implement what I had learned, I was admittedly too green; I simply could not figure out how to move beyond the history and politics of our situation.

Luckily, during one of our Institute sessions I heard about the NACADA Consultants Bureau. At the time, I really did not consider it an option, but after several months of frustration, I discovered that the best way to institute change in my organization was to bring in a third party. If factions within the college heard about advising from an outsider, maybe we could begin to institute the changes necessary for an effective advising program.

Once again the administration gave our advising program the needed support and approved hiring a NACADA consultant. The reasons they approved: we needed an outside opinion as a catalyst for change; NACADA has a tremendous reputation for professionalism and results; and the NACADA consultant service was relatively inexpensive.

Once approved, I immediately went to the NACADA Consultants Bureau website. The Web page told me what services the Bureau provides, how much it costs, and how the NACADA Executive Office could help us find the consultant that best matched our needs. We ended up selecting a consultant who truly matched our needs; one who has been an advisor, counselor, faculty member, and advising administrator at a community college about our size.

Once we took care of the details with the Executive Office, we worked directly with our consultant to set up the visit. After listening intently to what our situation was and to what we thought we wanted to accomplish, the consultant delineated the purpose of his visit:

  • to meet with selected representatives of various groups at the college, including students, faculty and other personnel with a vested interest in advising;
  • to review current advising practices at SFCC;
  • to recommend a model and advising practices that would be best suited for the culture of the college; and
  • to provide professional development at the Advisor Cadre meeting' (Champardé, 2005).

Of course, what another institution may require from a NACADA consultant might be totally different, but this was exactly what we needed.

Once our consultant arrived on campus, he accomplished everything he said he would. What amazed us was not only his expertise in each area, but the ease with which he was able to get along with every group he met and make his points in an easily understood manner. He was accepted as an expert in the advising profession and people listened to what he had to say.

So what did this consultation do for us? Where are we today? The consultant's report provided recommendations that came as little surprise to me, but his well-written report gave us the words of a NACADA-sanctioned advising expert and his suggestions for improvement. He was able to word things much more eloquently and professionally than I ever could, and the key was that recommendations for change came from an outsidesource.

While it has taken a year for us to see solid results, things are happening as a result of recommendations offered by our NACADA consultant. The lines of communication between advising areas are much improved. I've learned how to work more effectively with the faculty, and we re-energized our advising committee that now provides the college with official academic advising policy. Some of the counselors provided our first advisor training in almost five years; it was well received by our faculty.

We still have a long way to go to institute all of the recommendations offered by our NACADA consultant, but we are making progress. We are now a more cohesive and collaborative institution. Together we have made great strides toward improving our advising program for students. After all, isn't that the main goal?

If you would like to make changes to your advising program and could use an outside expert's help, then you truly cannot go wrong using the NACADA Consultants Bureau. It may just provide the agent of change you need.

Carlos Delgadillo
Spokane Falls Community College
carlosd@spokanefalls.edu

Reference

Champardé, Tim. (2005). Report for Spokane Falls Community College Regarding Selection of an Advising Model and General Advising Improvement.


How We Spent Our Summer Vacation: Oregon State University's Journey to Colorado and Beyond!

Susie Leslie, Oregon State University

Academic advising at Oregon State University has undergone remarkable changes in the last few years. Certain stars have aligned to give rise to these changes-shifts in administration and a focus on the student experience combined with the collaborative energy of advisors and administrators. George Kuh (2005) uses the term 'positive restlessness' to describe the climate of campuses truly working to be engaged in a culture of deep learning. At OSU there was a positive restlessness among academic advisors; they were struggling to find their collective voice. This is a story of their adventure and a narrative of change.

First, a little background.

Oregon State University is a research-intensive, land grant institution with approximately 19,000 undergraduate and graduate students. There are ten strong, independent colleges and the University Exploratory Studies Program that provide academic advising to undergraduates. Each college has a unique advising structure and although each has a head advisor, their duties may vary dramatically from hands-on advising to coordinating student services for the College.

In 2001, a visit by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), OSU's accrediting body, found advising of students to be less than ideal, noting inconsistencies and student confusion. They made a formal recommendation to rectify the situation. The wake-up call initiated several changes. Student engagement became the buzz.

The Vice Provost invited proposals geared toward student success and engagement. A proposal to send ten head advisors and two administrators to the NACADA Academic Advising Summer Institute to determine best principles for advising at Oregon State was approved. In July of 2005, this group had the opportunity to attend the Summer Institute.

OregonStateSIteam.jpg

The group takes flight.

Days at the Summer Institute are intense, filled with learning and focused on specific Action Plans of the participants. Oregon State's situation was unique-one large group focused on a single project with one NACADA faculty member as a guide. Charlie Nutt was assigned, prodding when needed and reining us in when the group went astray. The opportunity to concentrate on this work far away from campus, all together, sixteen hours a day was irreplaceable. Deeper relationships were forged and true understanding developed. After the day's sessions the group could be found closing down the hotel pub, huddled in small groups around laptop computers. The group had become a team. This was the catalyst for incredible productivity at the Institute and is responsible for much of the energy that continues today.

To shape our Action Plan, the team relied heavily on a few guiding documents, including OSU's Strategic Plan, the CAS Standards, and NACADA's Core Values. As the week progressed, our best advising principles manifested themselves: first with a vision and mission, then values closely aligning those of the institution, and finally with goals and learning outcomes for both advisors and students. At the close of the week, the group had honed and polished meaningful statements to light the way for advising at Oregon State.

The glow carries forth.

Back in Corvallis the team shared this work across campus in colleges and departments, at brown bags, to various Councils, and the President, Provost and their Councils. The message boiled down to re-conceptualizing how advisors use their time, a shift from prescriptive advising to developmental advising. The Academic Advising Council, a committee of the Faculty Senate, unanimously adopted the vision, mission, value, and goal statements as part of its guidelines, followed by approval by the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate.

At the end of fall term the group was invited by the Provost to prioritize the top investment needs for advising. This signaled the value top administrators had for advising at OSU as well as respect for the tremendous work done by the group, now the Council of Head Advisors (CHAdvisors). Technology, Assessment, and Advisor Development and Recognition rose to the top of our investment list:

  • The group is negotiating the development of an expandable, comprehensive advising system prototype that will be funded by the Provost and will serve the entire University.
  • To jump start assessment efforts, three members went to the NACADA Assessment Institute in February. Initial assessments have focused on learning outcomes considered essential to first year students, and gauging advisor perceptions about their own practice and support provided to them by the university.
  • Funding was secured and guidelines written for a Professional Advising Award (a Faculty Advising Award is already in place), to be given annually at University Day.
  • Commitments were made to offer local professional development opportunities to faculty and professional advisors each year.

Then came judgment day.

In April 2006, the NWCCU returned to Oregon State for an interim accreditation visit. The stern recommendation had been addressed fully in writing and the CHAdvisors and administrators were invited to meet with the accreditors. Their outgoing comments to the President and Provost were positive. The real acclaim came in their formal report which ended with a commendation for academic advising:

Oregon State University has made dramatic progress in creating a culture where advising is valued and regarded as central to student success. The energy, enthusiasm, and commitment of those members of the OSU community engaged in advising are admirable. OSU is commended for the steps it has taken since the 2001 report to improve and promote advising, and for its success in creating a new university culture where excellence in advising is considered essential to student success. The assessment plan for advising is the best we have observed for any university.

But what about the students, you say.

Once we identified essential learning outcomes for first year students, the team partnered with Student Orientation and Retention staff to develop several documents that put theory into practice. They are tangible products useful to both students and advisors.

  • Zero to Success in 77 Days is a week by week list of things students need to stay on top of to enhance their chances of success.
  • Advisor-Advisee Responsibilities shapes the role of each and acknowledges the partnership necessary for successful guidance.
  • The START Checklist covers required and recommended tasks to be completed during START summer orientation as well as key information new students need to know.
  • Vision, Mission, Values Poster now hangs, matted and framed, in every advising office on campus including athletics, international programs, equal opportunities, etc. It serves as a visible reminder of our commitment to excellence in advising.

These documents offered students a unified, campus-wide message-each document was used in every START session by every college and department.

We still have work to do.

As with all big undertakings, there is always more to be done. For example, about half of the campus participants at the recent NACADA Webinar were unaware of this work and our efforts to unify basic principles for academic advising. A cultural shift of this magnitude will take time, patience, and persistence from both students and advisors if we want to see it come to fruition.

Wondering if you could follow suit?  Never say never.

This work is doable. If your University cannot send a group to the Summer Institute, perhaps they could bring NACADA to campus. Do you meet regularly to discuss issues? Does your faculty senate address and support academic advising? Get together, seek out the barriers and remove them, collaborate to find common ground. Who knows, the stars may align in your court next!

Susie Leslie
Oregon State University
susie.leslie@oregonstate.edu

References

Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt & Associates. (2005). Student Success in College. Washington, D.C.; Jossey-Bass.


Hot Summer, Cool Institute

John Nilsson, Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

John Nilsson.jpgIt was the hottest summer Wisconsin had seen in ten years and I loved every minute of it. As a Summer Institute Scholarship winner, I was participating in the NACADA Summer Institute for the first time. In the air-conditioned comfort of the Concourse Hotel, I was surrounded by advising friends, both new and old, from around the country. In the evenings I strolled through the student quarter of Madison, a very lively place even in the beginning of August. At first I walked alone, but by the second day I strolled with new friends from colleges and universities across the country. I found this an ideal atmosphere to consult with the best advising experts in the nation.

Two of my colleagues back home in Salt Lake City had attended previous Summer Institutes and encouraged me to apply for the scholarship; they believed that I would greatly benefit from the experience. Both of my colleagues brought back exciting ideas which were implemented on our campus. One particular colleague helped guide me through the application process and gave me needed assistance when I had questions.

I am relatively new to the advising profession, having fallen into the craft in 2001 while in graduate school at the University of Washington. Although I had recently attended my first Annual NACADA Conference in Las Vegas, I still felt unsure of my footing in the field and hoped to meet more experienced practitioners who were facing similar professional challenges. From the moment I walked in to the first General Session of the Institute, I felt welcomed by the other attendees and especially by the board of experienced practitioners. Institute faculty members made me feel a valuable part of the NACADA organization and imparted deep insights into the nature and practice of advising.

The Small Group sessions held each day balanced the General Sessions nicely and gave me the chance to get to know a dozen other advisors from around the country, certainly not least of whom wasSusan Campbell, our group leader. Her expertise in the assessment of advising and the Institute's general focus on that topic was just what I needed to jump-start progress on the personal goals within my Action Plan. She gently guided each discussion to help us illuminate a vision of advising on our campuses that was exciting and liberating. The possibilities for positive change seemed endless. Susan encouraged us to learn from each other and to keep a record of our discussions, a practice that has helped me remember the essential points after I came back to Utah.

Social activities - for instance, the barbecue and dance held midweek - kept me refreshed and excited to return to Small Group work and General Sessions with new friends. The exchange of light-hearted banter while waiting for sessions to begin was much easier after the judiciously planned social events. I saw some of the friends I made at the Institute at the Annual NACADA Conference in Indianapolis, and we followed up with each other's progress on the Summer Institute Action Plans we crafted in Madison.

Another benefit of the Institute was the consulting appointment. Here participants were invited to schedule an appointment with any one of the group of advising experts at the Institute. My consultant provided valuable pointers on the best way to approach a campus assessment project and offered follow-up encouragement to move ahead with my plans. What I learned one-on-one from this consultation was reinforced in the Institute's General Sessions where the nature of academic advising was discussed. The General Session presenters inspired us to think of ourselves as educators concerned with the development of the whole student rather than class-schedulers tied to the rhythms of registration.

Returning to campus, I shared my reflections on the Summer Institute in both written and oral formats with my colleagues. Many were curious to know just how the Institute differed from a conference, the usefulness of the advice given, and what I planned to do with what I had learned. I explained that the main difference between the Institute and a conference was the targeted personal attention I received as an Institute participant. Conference attendance is very helpful, but Institute participation is invaluable.

JohnNilsson.jpg

The culmination of the Action Plan I fine-tuned at the Institute lies in the future, but I am much closer to realizing it, and most importantly, more confident that the goal I set lies within my reach.

I encourage NACADA members to apply for a Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship. The people I met and the experiences I had at Summer Institute were invaluable to my professional development. The Annual Conference Awards Ceremony, which included the Summer Institute Scholarship winners, was a very gratifying way to be recognized by NACADA. This recognition, along with my experiences at Summer Institute, was a professional highlight of my year. I will always be thankful for the opportunity NACADA extended in awarding me the Summer Institute Scholarship.

John Nilsson
University of Utah
JNilsson@uc.utah.edu


SparklerBanner.jpg

It takes but one SPARK to ignite the flame for an idea. Does your campus have an unusual or exceptional process or program that could spark an idea on another campus? If so, tell us about it in 350 words or less.  Send your 'Sparkler' to Leigh@ksu.edu  

This edition's SPARKLER comes from Jennifer DeWeerth, Director of the Student Service Center at Mohawk Valley Community College, who discusses their Peer Advising Assistant initiative.

When we redesigned our new student advising program, we took an unusual step for a community college; we built in a student leadership component. We recruited and trained a dozen peer Advising Assistants. The AAs provided one-on-one support to about 1500 entering students over the course of several months and assisted many continuing and returning students as well.

The AA's were recruited through Phi Theta Kappa (honor society) and faculty recommendations. They needed solid GPA's and were screened to make sure that they had good people skills and knew how to use the College's web registration system. We paid them the standard student assistant rate, and some worked almost full time through most of the summer. Training was held on a Saturday morning; it focused on the 'soft' skills to help new students make the transition to college, as well as the 'hard' skills of searching for courses, making a schedule, and web-registering. Since they were teaching new students the skills that they would need for future registration, we wanted to be sure that the AA's were following standard procedures. We also stressed confidentiality, since the peer assistants were seeing academic records in secure student web accounts as well as discussing life issues that affected class scheduling.

While their main responsibility was helping new students turn a list of advisor-recommended courses into a realistic course schedule, AA's helped with other tasks as well. They answered phones and staffed the reception desk. They made advising appointments and called continuing students who hadn't registered and encouraged them to do so.

The program was cheered by the Registrar, Business, and Financial Aid Offices because it helped new students learn in a non-threatening way the steps they needed to do on the web. Advisors (mostly faculty) were thrilled to be able to focus on academic issues and not have to teach students the ins and outs of scheduling. New students liked the personal attention. Finally, the experience was transformative for the AA's themselves, as they gained confidence and work experience. Many expressed pride that they were able to help fellow students have a smoother transition to college than they did.

For more information, contact Jennifer at jdeweerth@mvcc.edu.

Posted in: 2007 March 30:1

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