Toward a Culturally and Racially Sensitive Renaming of Academic Probation

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 09, 2023 - 1:00 PM CDT (GMT-5)

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The term “Academic Probation” is antiquated and inappropriate for the inclusive learning environment of today. It contradicts the mission of our colleges and universities as advisors aim to welcome students from the communities most sensitive to the feelings associated with law enforcement, for example. All of us who adhere to NACADA’s values strive to create a welcoming and encouraging context for equitable student success. However, advisors implicitly criminalize academic struggles when we label students who are on a pathway to academic recovery as somehow felonious. At California State University, Fullerton, presenters have completed implemented the renaming of “Academic Probation” to “Academic Notice.”  As of Fall 2021, students who complete their semester with a Grade Point Average below 2.0 carry the notation of “Academic Notice” on their transcript. This phrase also now takes the place of all references to “Probation” in all campus print and online publications, as well as in our everyday speech.  Since this action, concurrent with a series of national and regional presentations on the topic, many partner campuses have followed CSU Fullerton’s lead. In fact, one of the presenters represents the state’s community colleges, where a statewide resolution has been created, abolishing the “probation” terminology. The presenters will share the rationale, method and outcomes of this timely innovation.


What You'll Learn

  • Gain a deeper understanding of why we currently accept the term "Academic Probation," as well as the racially and culturally harmful impact of this terminology.
  • Explore innovations in prioritization of student self-empowerment in the process of academic improvement, for learners who have experienced academic struggles.
  • Reflect upon their institutional and personal missions, and particularly the role of the language we use to support of contradict those intentions.
  • Consider or produce their own preliminary action steps for pursuing this or similar changes on their own campuses, armed with further insights into the irrelevance of the currently popular "Probation" terminology.


Headshot of Elizabeth BoretzElizabeth Boretz, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs-Academic Outreach, California State University Fullerton

Dr. Elizabeth Boretz earned her Ph.D. in Romance Languages at the University of Washington and began her faulty career and earned tenure in a public liberal arts university in the 1990’s. There she became intrigued by the diverse needs and life issues that held her students back from fulfilling their potential. This led Dr. Boretz to return to graduate school. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education/Student Affairs from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ten years after she began her faculty career.  From there, she made a career change to Director of the Calvin E. Bright Student Success Center, when she joined the Founding Team of the University of California-Merced, which opened in 2005. For ten years there she captured grant funds to establish and grow programs in peer mentoring, learning support, special populations support (Undocumented; underrepresented students; transfer and adult learners), academic advising and many academic partnerships. In 2016 she joined the team at California State University-Fullerton as the inaugural Assistant Vice President for Student Success. She led initiatives to build a collaborative, cross-divisional model for holistic academic advising.  For seven years she implemented a variety of procedural innovations to remove obstacles to Student Success. It was during this time that she and her team proposed the discontinuation of criminally charged “Academic Probation” language. In April 2023 Dr. Boretz transitioned to a new role, building partnerships to improve the success of transfer students, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs-Academic Outreach.

Headshot of Catherine RivasCatherine Rivas, Assistant Director of College Readiness Programs, California State University Fullerton

Cathy Rivas began her journey in higher education as a first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented minority student at the University of California-Santa Barbara. There, she experienced academic challenges including probation and disqualification, which unexpectedly had a positive impact on her pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Applied Psychology. Feeling inspired to transform the trajectory of students from similar backgrounds, Cathy proceeded to earn her Master of Arts degree in Educational Counseling and Pupil Personal Services Credential from California State University-Dominguez Hills. She started her career providing high school counseling, where she focused primarily on encouraging students of low socio-economic status to apply for college. In 2010, after wondering how her students would remain supported post-high school, Cathy shifted her attention to institutions of higher education and began working as an Academic Advisor. Since joining California State University-Fullerton in 2014, she has led innovative campus efforts to minimize administrative barriers and create a sustainable support system for students experiencing academic challenges, including probation (notice) and disqualification. In 2021, Cathy originated RESET, a successful introspective and empowering program for students on Academic Notice. Beginning March 2023, Cathy transitioned to a new role as the inaugural Assistant Director of College Readiness Programs, focusing on high school-to-college and first-year preparedness.

Headshot of Oleg :BespalovOleg Bespalov, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, PACE, and Marketing, Moorpark College

Oleg Bespalov is currently the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, PACE, and Marketing at Moorpark College. Prior to joining Moorpark College, Oleg provided leadership for institutional effectiveness at Taft College, Pierce College, UniversityNow, and the San JoséEvergreen Community College District. Oleg also held research positions at Bridgepoint Education, Temple University, Princeton University, and ETS. Oleg got a head start on college through the Bucks County Community College dual enrollment program, and completed a BA and MBA from La Salle University.

Core Competencies Addressed

Academic Advising Core Competencies that will be addressed in this presentation include: 

  •  How equitable and inclusive environments are created and maintained.
  •  The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations. 
  • R3 icon.png  Communicate in an inclusive and respectful manner. 
  • R4 icon.png  Plan and conduct successful advising interactions.


NACADA Members:

  • Before/on Nov. 1 - $150
  • After/on Nov. 2 - $175


  • Before/on Nov. 1 - $300
  • After/on Nov. 2 - $325

Registration closes November 7, 2023

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Individuals using checks or purchase orders for payment must use this Registration Form.  

  • Please complete the form, print it, and mail or fax to the Executive Office.  Registrations will be processed in the order they are received.  Once processing is complete, you will receive via email a receipt or invoice for the event.
  • The completed form and a check or approved PO must be received by the Executive Office at least two working days prior to the event. If the event should reach capacity before your registration can be processed, your check or PO will be returned to you.
  • Note: For your financial safety, we can NOT accept registrations with a credit card via email.


Refund/Transfer Policy

If you find after registering that you are not able to attend the broadcast, you may:

  • Choose to simply remain registered and view the streamable recording of the event from the link that will be provided and available for 30 days following the event.
  • Transfer your registration to another individual from your institution. (If this person is not a current NACADA member, they will either be asked to become a member or pay the non-member fee.)
  • Up to 30 days prior to the webinar: Request a refund of paid registration fees (less $25) in writing. 
  • 29 to 8 days prior to the webinar: Request a refund off paid registration fees (less 50%) in writing. 
  • Due to service provider obligations, refund requests can not be accepted less than 8 days priorbeforeevent. Internal campus substitutions can be made up to 3 days before the broadcast.
  • In the unlikely event the broadcast is cancelled, registration fees will be returned.