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Joy Gaeraths, Arizona State University

Joy Gaeraths.jpgJust another day at the office.  Does it always have to be that way?

Students obviously appreciate when they are given course suggestions or directed to resources available on campus.  How often do they see their advisor on campus outside of the office?  Does that make a difference in how they view advising in general?  There are many different ways to reach students outside of traditional in office advising.  Advising, as “the only structured activity on the campus in which all students have the opportunity for one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution” (Habley, 1994, p. 10) seems like a natural way to try and meet students where they are.  It is important to be a part of their whole experience as a student and be accessible to them outside of traditional advising offices and timeframes to help meet them where they are at in terms of their educational journey.  The entire experience a student has while in college is important, and it is beneficial to the relationship between the student and advisor to show interest in them outside of that traditional advising setting they may be used to or expect. 

At the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University, part of our mission is to serve as a knowledgeable resource and advocate for students.  By being involved on campus and being accessible to the students, we are better able to do so.  This has been a focus of the office in the past few academic years to try and “humanize” the advisors to where students feel more comfortable reaching out as well as to help us be more proactive in our interactions with students.  These are some ways that the advisors in the Polytechnic School try to engage students outside of that traditional office setting. 

Initial Contact with Students

Orientation and outreach.  This is the first contact with students and parents and a chance to show the parents that advisors are a resource for the students.  It is also a chance to let students know that advisors are there for them during their whole journey as a student and get them excited about being a new college student.  Advisors are there to help students schedule their first semester and promote school spirit at the same time.  Other ways to reach out to students in this first semester can be events before school starts such as a camp in the summer or events during the first week of school. Additionally, outreach to transfer students during a special orientation for them or by attending events at local community college can help ease that transition for this population of students. 

In the classroom.  Many universities have an introductory class that first-time freshmen are either required to take or at least highly recommended to take.  The classroom is great place to reach students and answer general questions that will benefit more than one student.  Maybe there are other milestone classes later in the student’s program where advisors can be present to help make sure that the students are moving along as they should be and give general information pertinent to that time in their program.  Having them all in one place helps to take care of basic questions all at once so that student appointments can be more meaningful.  The other benefit to being in the classroom is the interaction with faculty.  Showing a united front between staff and faculty shows students that everyone is on the same page in terms of their educational journey and that everyone is there to help them reach graduation. 

Advising Outside the Office

Advising out on campus.  Is there a place on campus where students congregate? Is there a particular major that is housed in one building?  Use that space as a way to be accessible to those students.  If possible, have office hours in that building weekly and let students know when those office hours are.  Seeing a student briefly in a setting like this may help with a “quick question” that would have turned into an emergency without contact with an advisor.  Taking care of those “quick questions” before they become bigger issues help the student avoid major stressors like academic probation and can make the advisor’s job a little less reactive and a little more proactive.  Looking at the student’s whole experience and being proactive in advising helps to build a support system and relationship with the advisor that will last from start to finish (Varney, 2012).

Academic and social events.  Events on campus that promote both academics and social interaction are great to attend.  Advisor interest shows students that advisors are human and that they care about multiple aspects of the student’s educational experience.  Academic events are important because sometimes advisors can hear from students about what they are doing in the classroom, which can be exciting for the students to share as well as the advisors to hear about.  Another benefit for advisors attending different events on campus is networking with different departments.  Making those connections can help advisors be more efficient when helping students and connecting them to someone specific in different departments when necessary, which is a part of the Design phase of Appreciative Advising.  Part of this phase is to make effective referrals, which can be done when advisors plan accordingly and use their resources to connect students directly to another department instead of a phone number or general email inbox.  This way, the student has a smooth experience moving from one department to another (Bloom, Hudson, He, 2008).

Interaction through Additional Involvement

Virtual interaction.  Social media is huge now and a free and easy way to connect with students.  Using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a quick and easy way to get information to students via whatever device they are already looking at (phone, laptop, tablet).  Social media is also a great tool for students to get to know staff and put a name to a face, especially if there are online students who do not come in to see an advisor but talk with them on the phone or via email.  This makes the interaction a bit more personal. 

Volunteering on campus.  There are always opportunities to volunteer on campus for events during move in or at graduation.  Seeing advisors helping on campus may also make students feel more comfortable approaching them if they see them in a different setting than an advising office.  It can be especially rewarding for advisors to volunteer at graduation related events.  Seeing students reach their goals and how proud they and their family are of this accomplishment is nice for advisors to experience.  This event is truly one that all advisors should attend at least once to see how amazing it is to watch students reach that goal that everyone supporting the student has worked so hard to achieve. 

Conclusion

As a result of the efforts in the Polytechnic School advising office at Arizona State University, students have voiced their approval in the form of the measurable results that come from student surveys that are given to the students after both scheduled appointments and express advising.  They are much more positive now than they have been in the past.  The number of escalated students that come in and speak with management has decreased from one or two students a day to one student a month.  Another area that has improved is the relationship students have developed with their advisor and the office in general.  Students appear to be more willing to reach out for help when needed instead of waiting too long, which has helped our goals of being proactive rather than reactive.   

Advisors have an opportunity to make connections with students as representatives of the university.  These interactions can be more powerful when they take place outside the traditional advising spaces.  These ideas and can be adapted them to work for any institution so that advisors can take advantage of these unique opportunities to connect with their students outside of the office.

Joy Gaeraths
Academic Success Specialist
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University
Joy.Gaeraths@asu.edu

Reference

Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.

Habley, W. R. (1994). Key concepts in academic advising. In Summer Institute on Academic Advising Session Guide (p. 10).  Manhattan, KS: NACADA The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Varney, J. (2012, September). Proactive (intrusive) advising! Academic Advising Today, 35(3). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Proactive-Intrusive-Advising.aspx

 

Cite this article using APA style as: Gaeraths, J. (2017, March). Meet me halfway: Advising as part of the whole student experience. Academic Advising Today, 40(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2017 March 40:1

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