Tamara Workman, Southern Illinois University–Carbondale
Teri Farr, Jennifer Frobish, and Anjie Almeda, Illinois State University
Through involvement with Illinois Academic Advising Association (ILACADA), colleagues at Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale collaborated to explore professional development at Illinois State and how it can be initiated at SIUC. Teri Farr, Jennifer Frobish, and Anjie Almeda, academic advisors at Illinois State, were invited by Tamara Workman and Gail Robinson of SIUC to provide a workshop on “Creating a Culture of Professional Development.” Farr and Almeda have been actively engaged in programming and are working on professional development initiatives on campus. Frobish, who joined Illinois State in 2008, has been actively engaged in the Professional Development and Training committee and worked to improve the focus of the group during her time as Chair. While these professionals are not industry experts, their previous experiences creating professional development opportunities for their respective professional communities provide unique insight into the creation of such programs.
The day-long workshop, attended by both Workman and Robinson and 10 other advisors from SIUC, consisted of a review of Illinois State’s history in terms of professional development, a discussion of the value of assessment and the development of a mission statement, a workshop on how to identify programming topics and create programs, and a conversation about gaining support.
Institutional coordination of professional development and training for advisement is a new concept for SIUC. While half-day workshops meant to address policy and procedure reviews have occurred in the past, programming was not consistent because of fluctuating support, both financial and human. Participation in regional, state, or national associations and conferences was self-driven by the individual advisor, and while some benefitted from departmental support, many advisors covered expenses themselves. As a result, participation at most levels has been low and inconsistent.
Although training and development have not been consistent, SIUC has maintained an advising model that utilizes professional academic advisors. However, advisors did not function under a shared set of goals, and therefore, NACADA consultant Lynn Freeman visited SIUC in July of 2011 and made recommendations on how to provide advisement the organizational support necessary to effectively involve them in the retention efforts of the institution.
Following Freeman’s review, an Advisory Council on Academic Advisement was formed, composed of college administrators, advisors, faculty, and directors from the core function areas of Enrollment Management. Workman became the advising champion for campus. Several working groups were created to address Freeman’s recommendations: Assessment, Technology and Training, and Operational. At least two of the working groups are expected to develop into standing committees once the implementation phase is complete. Assessment is being considered as a means of determining how these groups should move forward and develop.
When developing quality academic advising programs, assessment is a key element that should drive decisions. The results of assessment make it possible for appropriate visions, missions, goals, and activities to be generated in academic advising.
In approaching advising at SIUC, previous assessment and evaluation indicated that students are seeking care, accurate information, and accessibility from their academic advisor. Qualitative feedback from advisors on that campus indicated that these three concepts are naturally occurring during advising meetings and are the baseline service for all students. The advisors were seeking a mission statement, goals, and objectives that would further define what advising is, what students should learn from advising, and what the final outcomes of the process should be. Student growth, development of personal responsibility, and clarification of career goals are widely attributed to sound academic advising. With the backing of the institution, the advising community at SIUC is in a position to implement assessment to help tie their practices to common outcomes and goals of advising.
It is common that at the beginning of this process, institutions have to create assessment instruments that validate existing goals. This occurred at Illinois State and is occurring at SIUC. The key to starting an assessment process is understanding which constituents need to be assessed and for what purpose. It is suggested that advisors and administrators be the starting point so as to determine what the goals of advising should be. Essentially, assessment should answer the question, “what should students be able to do differently as a result of participating in academic advising at SIUC?” In utilizing key constituents who understand the purpose of higher education and academic advising, the answers to this question will generate a mission statement and lead to goals and objectives for the advising process. Once goals and learning objectives are clearly established, students can be folded into the assessment loop to determine the success with which the goals are being met. In having measurable outcomes at the start, the assessment of students can determine if academic advisement is providing not only the basics (care, accurate information, and accessibility), but also whether advisement is helping students to develop personal responsibility, clarify career goals, and grow through their education.
This process can also be performed for advisors, for the sake of determining what goals and learning objectives should exist for the Professional Development and Training (PDT) group on that campus. The initial assessment can focus on what advisors should accomplish as a result of participating in professional development activities. The results can lead to goals and learning objectives for advisors as professionals, which in turn will guide the programming of the PDT group.
As advisor roles are clarified and defined on campus, the PDT group can move forward with programming and training to help strengthen skills and abilities as they pertain to advisor expectations. There is no right or wrong way to approach professional development and training. The key is to look at topics that are relevant, timely, and applicable. The PDT group can develop topics in a number of ways, but because they will have recently worked through mission, vision, and goals for advisement, it makes sense to utilize issues and needs indicated through that process as topics.
It is also essential to differentiate between development and training. They are different and should be treated differently on campus, as training is essential to everyday work, but development impacts long-term growth as an advisor. In the initial stages of developing a campus culture that supports professional development and training, it is likely that training will have to be the focus so that advisors learn from the programming and ultimately see the immediate value.
For creating programs, academic advisors need to consider what type of session best fits the topic. It is possible that a session already exists through NACADA webinars or campus departments. For example, if the PDT has determined that crisis management is a relevant topic, Student Counseling Services or the Dean of Students may have a training program already prepared for campus constituents. The remaining tasks for the PDT are simply logistical in nature. The bottom line for determining topics is that the topic must fit the group’s mission and objectives, as determined through the assessment process. If a topic does not align with what the advising community says it does, it is not worth financial and human resources.
To help boost support of programming, the PDT group should consider what incentives can be provided to attendees. Topics for initial sessions should be something that will entice others to participate, and may even be more fun in nature. However, as the group gains momentum, PDT will need to consider how to maintain support. It is always encouraged that groups track participation. The group can send a list of events to each advisor and his/her supervisor, indicating what sessions have been attended that year. In the future, perhaps, the case can be made for continuing education credits. The best way to ensure long-term support is to make certain the group has a diverse representation. Include faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and administrators in the process, and be certain to bring those who may be resistant to change into the fold. Silos tend to exist on campuses so, working across departments and fields helps to open doors and create opportunities for all.
From this collaboration, a new partnership between Illinois State and Southern Illinois–Carbondale has been formed. SIUC hosted their first Fall Advisor Day in 2012 and boasted great success. They are hosting a campus-wide training session for advisors in the coming weeks. The two institutions hope to develop a sister-institution relationship, connecting advisors with similar interests and job functions, so that advisors can share best practices and support each other through their work.
Director, Transfer Student Services
Southern Illinois University–Carbondale
Assistant to the Chair and Undergraduate Advisor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences
Illinois State University
Department of Marketing
College of Business
Illinois State University
Department of Health Sciences
College of Applied Science and Technology
Illinois State University
Cite this article using APA style as: Workman, T., Farr, T., Frobish, J., & Almeda, A. (2013, March). Creating a collaborative culture in academic advisement. Academic Advising Today, 36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]