Kathryn Martin, 2003 NACADA Pacesetter Award Recipient
Advising is one of the most crucial functions on any college or university campus. The purpose of these comments is to share with you one campus’s perception of progress to date and how we intend to look into the future, as we strengthen and continue to improve the nature and definition of advising at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD).
Critical to a defined and successful university advising program is keen administrative support that is manifest in the articulated expectation of quality advising. Certainly a reward system which includes advising as a priority is appropriate within a university culture which values and supports advising. Further, as administrators, we frequently have deep concerns about retention, when our primary focus should be the quality of advising.
The crux of the issue in strengthening advising relates directly to the effectiveness of the transition from “prescriptive” advising to a diverse and integrated advising process that is clearly and distinctly dedicated to both academic achievement and the successful development of the person. Thus advising must become central to collegiate success and must be prioritized as such.
At the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), the definition of advising that underscores those elements valued by our university and that has provided a framework for our refocusing of the advising process, is the definition of David Crockett: (Crockett, p.3)
“Academic advising is a developmental process which assists students in the clarification of their life/career goals and in the development of educational plans for the realization of these goals. It is a decision-making process by which students realize their maximum educational potential through communication and information exchanges with an advisor; it is ongoing, multifaceted, and the responsibility of both student and advisor. The advisor serves as a facilitator of communication, a coordinator of learning experiences through course and career planning and academic progress review, and an agent of referral to other campus agencies as necessary.”
At UMD advising is within the purview of Deans and Associate Deans. The associate deans generally coordinate student affairs within collegiate units. We also have an Advisement Coordination Center that serves a three fold mission: provides a safety net for students who perceive that they have had a distressing advising experience; arranges training for faculty and staff; and coordinates collegiate advisement exchanges with Student Affairs personnel.
We believe that answering the “who should be advising” question is less important than the interrelationship and quality of communication among the various individuals involved in advising. Coordinating the communication must be a function of one person involved in the advising process and must have a regular structure.
Strong advising programs have a combination of faculty who are interested and committed to advising as well as professional advisors. Faculty from within a student’s major can provide keen insights into skills development and the status of skills development within the major and can participate in the recording of assessment data relative to the student’s future progress within the major.
Administrative support of advising and to the establishment of a culture that values advising is the cornerstone of a successful collaborative and interactive advising process. Without the collaborative and interactive process both among the advisors and with the advisees, advising will seldom achieve the level of success that students deserve.
The role of the advisor at UMD is to: help students clarify their educational values and goals; guide students toward an academic program in which they can be successful, and acquaint students with campus resources to support academic and personal development and success.
Students are responsible to schedule, prepare for and keep advising appointments. However on occasion, advisors may need to assist the students in the scheduling of appointments. Obviously, any campus must have a respectful and supportive relationship between housing staff and faculty and professional advising personnel.
From our perspective at UMD, critical to a future of successful faculty advising is our commitment to provide electronic support to eliminate or nearly eliminate the function of faculty “bookkeeping” for each advisee. Faculty must be provided electronic support in an effort to reduce the amount of time spent on viewing transcripts, assessing progress toward meeting general education requirement, progress toward the major and subsequent progress toward the degree.
The UMD electronic support system is the ePortfolio, which is an electronic data collection system, which will interface with a graduation planner, specific to the major, all of which is secured. Think of the graduation planner as a departmental “check list.” Each semester the updated student data, courses taken and grades will be automatically downloaded from PeopleSoft student records to the student’s ePortfolio. Students will be initially introduced to the ePortfolio at Orientation. At the time of pre-registration and the selection of a major, students will have the specific department graduation planner integrated with the ePortfolio. Each student will then have a graduation planner aimed at four year graduation which will include a semester by semester format of all required general education courses, required courses in the major and recommended electives. Each semester the record will be updated and will have the capacity to chronologically include assessment materials. The latter is particularly critical in the major where specific skill sets are required to advance to the next level of course work.
Currently, we have selected one department from each collegiate unit to design the department specific templates for their graduation plan. We are also beginning the development of training materials, for both student training and advisor training, and this training will be coordinated by our Academic Coordination Center working with faculty, students and student affairs officers in the collegiate units.
There is no better indicator of the quality of undergraduate education than reflected in the quality of the institution’s advising process. Publicly articulated administrative support and appropriate reward structures set the tone for a collegiate culture that values and sustains quality advising. The focus of advising should be far more than “prescriptive” recording keeping. Instead it should include the technological support needed to provide advisors with the opportunity for both mentoring academically and monitoring the successful development of the person. As administrators it is our obligation to consistently self examine our actions and our programs in hopes of maximizing educational potential. Without exception, successful advising reflects a successful educational experience!
Chancellor, University of Minnesota Duluth
Crockett, David S., (ed.), Advising Skills, Techniques and Resources: A Compilation of Materials Related to the Organization and Delivery of Advising Services. ACT Corporation, Iowa City, Iowa, 1987.
Gordon, Virginia N., Wesley R. Habley and Associate. Academic Advising a Comprehensive Handbook. Jossey-Bass, Inc., San Francisco, CA, 2000.
Gordon, Virginia, N., Handbook of Academic Advising, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1992
Kramer, Gary L. (ed.). Faculty Advising Examined – Enhancing the Potential of College Faculty as Advisors, Anker Publishing Company, Inc. Bolton, MA, 2003.
Cite this article using APA style as: Martin, K. (2004, December). Academic advising: Responding from an administrative perspective. Academic Advising Today, 27(4). [insert url here]