Christine Lancaster, Chelsea Smith, and Kelsey Boyer, Eastern Michigan University
Advisors have a unique view on recruitment that allows them to impact student retention. Reinarz (2000) noted that “Academic advisors are often the persons with whom undergraduates have a continuing relationship during their undergraduate experience, and as such they may have a key role in successful student navigation of complex academic choices” (p. 211). Continuing a discussion started by Peterson and Kem (2009) in “The Role of Academic Advisors in Recruiting,” we seek to add information on retention with a special focus on underrepresented populations and second or selective admission programs in teacher preparation.
Diversity is an essential component of successful teacher preparation programs. Unfortunately, reports by the National Center for Education Statistics (2008a&b) found that minority teachers represent only 16.5% of the teacher workforce, where as minority students make up 40.6% of the K-12 student population. Further, Shen (1998) studied the preparation of teachers and found traditional certification programs are comprised of 87% white students and 13% minority students. While the National Center for Education Statistics (2010) showed a possible increase in minority teacher candidates, reporting that15.1% of education degrees in 2008-09 were conferred upon minority students, the need for an increase in minority teacher candidates remains. Recruitment strategies can provide a foundation for effective retention approaches including creation of long-term relationships early in a student’s educational career, reaching underrepresented populations, and increasing access to advising via technology.
Early Relationships are Important
In recruiting to retain underrepresented populations, it is important to develop early and consistent relationships. Advisors who express that students are valued can create a meaningful and personal connection early in each student’s educational career. This connection is especially important when recruiting students from a culture that is different from the predominant culture on campus. Building a relationship with parents of traditional aged students assists in retention and is important to underrepresented students. As suggested by Peterson and Kem (2009), the advisor who participates in orientation facilitates meetings that provide parents with information about employment opportunities and requirements within second or selective admission programs. In the same instance, advisors who let parents know that they have their student’s interest at heart will find that later, when the excitement of orientation wears off, parents are well informed, able to have discussions with their student about program requirements, and feel reassured that someone at the university values their student.
To reinforce the orientation connection, advisors should send a letter or email to students during their first semester. This contact serves as a reminder of program requirements, lets students know that advisors are available, opens a discussion about registration, and provides information on seminars that encourage students to stay on track and utilize resources.
Go Where the Students Are
When recruiting to retain underrepresented populations, it is important that we go to the students. In particular, it can be very effective when we offer advising through organizations, locations, and support groups already established for underrepresented students. In order to attract underrepresented populations to the teacher preparation program, Peterson and Kem (2009) suggested volunteering time advising students who use these support programs and taking time to communicate with students about the opportunities an academic program provides. Suggested target programs should go beyond the obvious programs for students of color, to include English as a second language and international student programs.
Aiken-Wisniewski and Allen (2005) noted that going outside the confines of our advising offices can increase our opportunities to connect with diverse groups of students. For example, advising can be done in the student union, residence halls, hallways, or even outside (see McIntyre article this issue). An advising table set up in another campus building allows advisors to be available with helpful information and facilitate conversations with students who may never have considered teaching as a career.
Advisors should take advising to local community colleges. When four-year college advisors work with community college students, we build relationships with community college advisors and potential transfer students. Meeting with students before transfer creates a lasting advising relationship that continues at the new institution thus tying recruitment to retention in yet another way.
In recruiting to retain underrepresented populations, it is important that we find alternative communication modes. As the “Net Generation” floods our campuses it is important that advisors are familiar with technologies that can assist in recruiting and retaining students. Social networking sites, such as Facebook©, provide advisors with the ability to communicate with prospective and current students. Information shared on the site can include upcoming recruitment and registration events, student successes, and websites or other Facebook pages designed to provide information. Advisors should consider developing podcasts that can be downloaded by prospective and current students seeking advising information. The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources links to a variety of institutional podcast sites that include topics such as how to seek advising, why advising is important, and what the student can expect from their advising experience.
The ease with which students can retrieve information is important for retention of underrepresented groups who may have heavy workloads and family obligations. Advisors should be involved in how information is shared electronically as many students use these avenues to obtain information. The accuracy and ease of use of interactive web applications encourages students to value and respect advising and other school services—leading to higher retention rates.
When advisors employ relationship-building strategies, go where students are, and incorporate technology, they impact student retention. Further research is needed to tie recruitment to retention and to explore how advisor retention efforts affect underrepresented students.
College of Education
Coordinator of Advising
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
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Reinarz, A. G. (2000). Delivering academic advising. In V. Gordon & W. Habley (Eds.), Academic Advising, A Comprehensive Handbook (pp. 210-219). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Shen, J. (1998). Alternative certification, minority teachers, and urban education. Education and Urban Society, 31(1), 30-41.
United States Department of Education. (2008a). Percentage distribution of school teachers by race/ethnicity, school type, and selected school characteristics: 2007-08 ]Data file[. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009324/tables/sass0708_2009324_t12n_02.asp
United States Department of Education. (2008b). Percentage distribution of students, by sex, race/ethnicity, school type, and selected school characteristics: 2007-08 ]Data file[. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009321/tables/sass0708_2009321_s12n_03.asp
United States Department of Education (2010). Bachelor’s degree conferred by degree-granting institutions, by sex, race/ethnicity, and field of study: 2008-09 ]Data file[. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_297.asp.
Cite this article using APA style as: Lancaster, C., Smith, C., & Boyer, K. (2011, June). Tying recruitment to retention: An advisor's role in working with underrepresented populations. Academic Advising Today, 34
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