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Paula Dollarhide, 2014 Assessment of Academic Advising Institute Scholarship recipient

Paula Dollarhide.jpgFifteen years ago I moved from Oklahoma to New Jersey and began a new career in higher education as an academic advisor in The Center for Academic Advising at Richard Stockton College.  Peter Hagen, my supervisor and long-time NACADA member, encouraged me from the beginning to be active in the association.  Through many types of NACADA experiences, I have learned to look at advising from many different perspectives and have grown in my knowledge of theory and philosophy of advising.  In 2008, I attended a Summer Institute in Austin and developed and implemented a plan for improving faculty advisor development.  All this was done with the help of fantastic NACADA faculty members who knew how to shepherd me and my faculty team member through the process of change.

When the call came out to apply for a scholarship for the 2014 Assessment of Academic Advising Institute, I knew I should again take advantage of the rich learning experiences NACADA has to offer.  It was time for our advising unit to move forward with a more structured assessment process.  It’s hard work!  We needed help.   When I was privileged to be awarded a scholarship, I got a “you go, girl!” from Peter.  My next step was to ask him to come along and get involved in assessment, which luckily he agreed to do.  The scholarship allowed us to work out our funding so that both of us could go, so how could he refuse?  After travel delays due to the many snowstorms in the East in February, Peter and I arrived in sunny Albuquerque.  It was a breath of fresh air for us, and that inspired us to dig in and get to work! The wonderful cuisine in Albuquerque didn’t hurt either!

During the opening plenary session we were introduced to the outstanding institute faculty, who broke the ice with their clever introductions—and the group cheer “assessment rocks!”  The faculty assured us that we were going to work hard, but this was going to be an exciting few days.  The faculty reminded us not to try for perfection the first time we go through the assessment cycle.  That calmed many of our fears.  We knew that there would be many starts and stops in this process.  In two and a half days we covered the important parts of the assessment cycle, from learning about values, vision, and mission statements to developing and mapping student learning outcomes.  Each day started with a large group session to hear a plenary address about a part of the assessment cycle.  Smaller sessions covered special topics such as how to conduct focus groups, developing rubrics and satisfaction surveys.  A major part of each day was spent in small group activities.  Our small group leader, Tomarra Adams from the University of Louisville, helped us refine our values and mission statements.  She was a great encourager!  Tomarra met all of us where we were in the process and gave us homework to help us move forward with our individual plans.  Each assessment team in our small group presented their assessment plans, and we discussed the issues involved.  Listening to others in our group and sharing our experiences on our on campus communities was most helpful. In fact, I learned quite a bit about existing national surveys and quantitative research over breakfast and lunch tables with colleagues. 

Most of us in advising have similar challenges with time and resources.  The Assessment Institute faculty reminded us that we don’t have to assess everything at once—to take only a few student learning outcomes at a time to process. Whew!  We needed to hear that.  However, we learned that using a minimum of three different measures for each process/delivery was critical to determine validity of any one outcome.  True assessment of academic advising is far beyond a simple satisfaction survey or advisor evaluation. 

Regretfully, our time in Albuquerque quickly came to an end, and we left sunny skies to head back to more snow!  However, Peter and I now have a much better idea of the work that needs to be done on our campus.  We are back on campus equipped with the tools to refine our values, vision, and mission statements, and have garnered support from our colleagues in our office and across campus.  We have also established an assessment plan for the coming year and have begun work on mapping student learning outcomes. The best part is that we had time away to focus on assessment of advising, away from the distractions of our everyday work.  I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the 2014 NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute and want to thank the tremendous faculty members who put so much of their time and effort into helping us understand, implement, and appreciate the systematic approach of assessment!

Paula Dollarhide
Associate Director, The Center for Academic Advising
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Dollarhide, P. (2014, September). Assessment rocks. Academic Advising Today, 37(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.