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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Research, Diversity, and Leadership

John Paul (JP) Regalado, NACADA President

Presidents Regaldo & Damminger.jpgHello, my name is John Paul “JP” Regalado, and I am proud to be your NACADA president for the upcoming year. I have to admit that I was pretty nervous writing this article. I know you are not supposed to say or write that, but it’s the truth!

My experience at our recent annual conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota was outstanding. As has been my previous experience at NACADA events, I met some amazing people, learned a lot from the keynotes and sessions I attended, and came back to my institution with a renewed spirit and enthusiasm, knowing that what we do is so very important.

President Regalado 2014.jpgAs I mentioned in my remarks in Minnesota, I am a first-generation college graduate. The first time I stepped foot on my campus was at summer orientation, and it was an eye-opening experience! I had similar feelings addressing the more than 3,000 NACADA colleagues from all over the world in Minneapolis. To be among you working toward a common cause of student success is both an honor and a privilege. We have done and continue to do great work, but there is much more to do, and we need everyone to get involved and stay engaged.

Over the next year, I have asked the NACADA Board of Directors and the Council to focus on Research, Diversity, and Leadership as we determine where we want NACADA to be in the next five to 10 years. Expanding our research and scholarship continues to be a key for our field to advance. With that in mind, the Board recently approved the forming of a task force that will work with representatives from Kansas State University to investigate the possibility of collaboratively creating a Center for Excellence in Academic Advising and Research. It is our hope that this Center can serve as a hub for future research and scholarly inquiry regarding academic advising.

As an organization, we need to continue to make positive steps to improve and enhance our diversity. This means making sure we are being as inclusive as possible but also intentional in our initiatives and activities to make sure we are meeting the needs of our membership and the students we serve. In my experience, diversity can be a challenging topic to discuss and/or address, but that doesn’t mean we won’t or can’t. One of the great outcomes of inclusiveness is that we all can learn something new that will not only benefit NACADA as a whole, but also enhance our professional development and our work with students.

Leadership development and sustainability continues to be a major focus for our organization, and I want to acknowledge all the work done to get our members involved in all facets of NACADA. Getting our membership engaged and involved is no easy task, but all of us as leaders have a responsibility to help our members find new “pathways” for involvement and engagement. Our future lies in your hands.  If any of you are interested in getting more involved, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

2014 Town Hall2.jpgI would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you who came to our Town Hall meeting at the annual conference to share your thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations on these three areas. Please know that your comments were heard and will be incorporated into our work over the next year.2014 Town Hall1.jpg

I am very proud to be a member of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising and it is my privilege to serve you as president. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Council, we look forward to continue working with you in serving our students, our institutions, and our profession to the best of our ability as we work towards our shared goal of student success!

John Paul (JP) Regalado, President, 2014-2015
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Executive Director of Academic Advising
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

From the Executive Director: Waiting for the Future or Preparing for the Future?

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt 2014 keynote.jpgThanks again to Amy Sannes and the hardworking conference committee from Region 6 for the outstanding work that you did in making this year’s conference in Minneapolis truly outstanding, not only in size but also in the high-quality preconference workshops, concurrent sessions, and poster sessions.  Also, as always, many kudos go to Rhonda Baker and Farrah Turner in the Executive Office for the hard work and long hours they put into making the annual conference so successful every year along with all the Executive Office staff!

We are now home after four days of outstanding information and networking. Many of us returned directly to the intensity of Spring registration, while all of us returned to email inboxes overflowing with messages, requests, and questions, and voice mails filling our phones. Were we really gone a month? Aside from the rush of playing catch-up, though, we also returned with our heads and hearts filled with new ideas and initiatives that we are eager to implement to improve our students’ success and pathways to completion. Colleagues and administrators who were not able to attend might not understand or appreciate all this energy we have come home with! So we seem to have two choices: We can sit back and wait for the best time in the future to get involved with our institutions’ culture change to student learning at all levels, or we can prepare to be actively involved in the future of these culture changes.  I urge you to choose the second path in preparing for the future, but I know that is easier said than done on some campuses.

So what do we do? Consider the measured, intentional approach exemplified in “One Brick at a Time,” a song from the wonderful musical Barnum about the Barnum & Bailey Circus that debuted on Broadway in 1980.  (Calm down, I am not going to sing the song, but you can hear it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4x2CTooSlY.) The song’s message is that we can all soar in our work if we are willing to build our future “one brick at a time.”  In that vein, following are some “bricks” that I encourage you to use in preparing for the future now, rather than waiting for the future to arrive:

  • By early December, write short summaries of the best presentations you attended in Minneapolis and include two ways the ideas you gained could be incorporated in some way on your campus.
  • Find ways to share these ideas – in a staff meeting? Prepare these summaries to be formally shared with administrators in your unit or at the institution? Write a NACADA blog about all you learned in Minneapolis and how you are planning to use this knowledge or these ideas on your campus?
  • Work with others from your campus who attended the conference to provide the program for the next meeting of your campus academic advising council or association – maybe through poster sessions or short presentations from all who attended? Perhaps the group of you who attended from your institution could provide examples of culture change that could be accomplished in both the short term and long term based on what you learned?
  • Someone (your director, dean, vice president) had to approve your attendance in Minneapolis and fund your attendance. Send the administrator who approved and funded your attendance in Minneapolis (your director, dean, vice president) a personal thank-you email or note, including at least one major thing you gained from the conference and how that one thing could be implemented on your campus to improve student completion. (Be prepared to be asked for other ideas and initiatives and to lead the change based on your idea!)
  • Begin now making plans to attend your NACADA region conference and prepare to submit a proposal about the outstanding work being done on your campus. 

But it is not just NACADA members who should not be “waiting for the future!” NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising cannot “wait” either – we must also be “preparing for the future.”  What are the “bricks” NACADA must use to prepare the Association and the profession for the future? 

  • Continue to focus on our strategic goal to expand and communicate the scholarship of academic advising in important ways that will prepare NACADA for the future – explore  with the College of Education at Kansas State University the creation of a Center for Excellence and Research in Academic Advising? (The NACADA Board approved such an exploratory committee that will be working this year on this concept.)  Develop programs that provide members with the skills we all need to conduct research and write research articles? Continue to develop new formats for communicating our work to higher education globally?
  • Continue to focus on our strategic goals to create an inclusive environment within the Association that promotes diversity and to develop and sustain effective Association leadership – expand the work of the Sustainable Leadership Committee, Diversity Committee, and Emerging Leader Program? 

The key is that none of this can be done in isolation – all of us on our campuses must build stronger partnerships across the institution and with other institutions across the world. NACADA must build and support a strong expectation for research and publication in the field. Additionally, NACADA must build and support powerful initiatives that bring together the profession across the world and that guarantee the leadership of our Association is diverse in all ways.

So come join us in preparing for our future – both on our campuses and in our Association! Bringing about change is magical when done together and done with a clear focus and purpose.  Let’s strive to make the work we do in academic advising be the leader of the cultural change needed in higher education in order for our students to successfully complete with a degree!

Barnum clearly encourages us to come together, stay together and work together by following the band. So, everyone, come follow the NACADA band to student success across the world! 

Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
(785) 532-5717

Elevation through Collaboration: Successful Interventions for Students on Probation

Laura Asbury, Kristin Lively, and James Eckerty, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Kristin Lively in our upcoming Webinar, Advising Strategies for Students on Academic Probation.

IUPUI team.jpgCreating an intentional program for students is always a multi-step journey and can feel uphill all the way. When revamping our academic probation program, we turned to the university community—and to students themselves—to help us in the trek.

In 2008, roughly 600 of the 22,000 undergraduate students at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) were School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) students. At that time, we required first-time probation students to meet with an advisor twice during the semester and attend one of two intervention programs between the two meetings. One of the programs was an in-person, half-day seminar, and one was an online program. Both programs focused on better assisting students with coursework selection and included time management, study skills, learning styles, goal-setting, GPA calculation, and good standing requirements for the school. The in-person seminar seemed to reenergize students, but the online version did not engage students as successfully. Students who used the online model often did not complete the modules, but attended their second advising appointment expecting to register for their next semester of coursework. We concluded that the online model lacked personalization and accountability, yet our student population includes higher-than-average numbers of first-generation students and adult learners who need the flexibility of an online option. With new advisors in the department, the SPEA advising staff began to reassess the current probation program and sought alternatives.

First Step: Individualization

Advising literature supports the personalization of intervention programs and involvement of academic support systems in the process. Frost (1991) examines sharing responsibility for student success to improve motivation and retention as the concept of developmental advising first appeared. Higgins (2003) advances these ideas, advocating for academic advisors to work closely with students on probation and to strive to understand the multitude of difficulties that may impede learning, including college environment, personal motivation, and perceived control. Ultimately, she claims that schools must work with individual students to create more personal success plans.

In fall 2012, SPEA advisors incorporated these concepts in creating a new plan for first-time probation students. It was important that the flexibility of the program allow each student to not only have ownership of his or her own education, but to select components that suit each student’s specific needs and background. In the new program, advisors kept the framework of the success seminar, but enhanced individualization by allowing students to choose the components and design their probation programs. To fully implement the new “Design Your Own” intervention program, advisors collaborated with existing campus resources.

Second Step: Leveraging University Resources

Heisserer and Parette (2002) examine the benefits of intrusive advising, highlighting the importance of compiling a list of university resources for academically at-risk students. Advisors provided such an inventory for students who selected the “Design Your Own” probation program, including group tutoring, learning strategy seminars, and counseling workshops. While this program is designated for students on academic probation, the entire student population is welcome to attend or take part in every component, thus reducing the stigma and heightening the anonymity and learning opportunities for probationary students. The advisors were deliberate about creating student ownership for academic actions. As Cruise (2002) recommends, advisors sought to both refer students to resources and follow up on their attendance. Students were required to write their learning outcomes on a worksheet presented in the second advising meeting. By empowering students to take an active role in the decision-making at the beginning of the process and requiring reflective learning during the probation programming, the advisors’ objective was to teach students how to find, utilize, and learn from existing  resources to reach their goals.

Third Step: Selective Technology Usage

In addition to revising the intervention, advisors reviewed the paper format of the student self-assessment survey. It detailed the student’s perception of why he or she faced academic difficulty and the goals and resources he or she would utilize to improve academic work. By moving this assessment into SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool, advisors retained many of the useful queries posed to students while adding questions to assist advisors in conversations with students. SurveyMonkey allowed advisors to track students who did not complete the self-assessment as well as identify trends within the probation population. Survey results also assisted advisors in locating and utilizing campus resources that would be most helpful to each student’s individual needs. These results also allowed students to recognize campus resources that they may not have considered prior to their probationary period. Advisors hoped that students would then continue utilizing these resources throughout their academic careers. Anecdotally, advisors saw that students shared additional or more intimate details about their struggles on the survey, which developed a richer conversation between advisor and student.

In conjunction with SurveyMonkey, advisors utilized university systems such as the early warning system, FLAGS (Fostering Learning Achievement and Graduation Success), and academic holds. Advisors contacted students who were “flagged” for poor performance in one or more classes to encourage them to examine their actions in that class. Beginning with the first advising meeting, advisors included discussion of a realistic view of the probation student’s performance. Advisors continued to discuss FLAGS with students at pivotal points in the semester. With this university-wide system, records of class performance are contained in the student’s unofficial advising record throughout his or her academic career, assisting university personnel in advising resources and strategies for success for each student. Academic holds are additional technological tools that prevent students from registering for future coursework until they complete their intervention program, including two advising meetings during the semester. While each school utilizes this technology differently, SPEA determined that this would be a good tool to encourage student accountability during the probationary period.

Did We Reach Our Destination?

Results of the pilot program included an 80% response rate to the SurveyMonkey survey. Of the students who continued enrollment after placement on probation, approximately one-third completed the seminar with an average spring GPA of 2.655, rising from 1.519. The third group that completed the “Design Your Own” program moved from 1.67 to 2.044. However, advisors did not feel this average appropriately reflected student achievements as some experienced a significant increase in GPA. Of the students who did not complete a program, the predominant portion (46%) was dismissed. Advisors felt that the “Design Your Own” program resulted in increased participation with staff and provided more individual attention to struggling students than a generic seminar or impersonal online module. These observations were confirmed by students during follow-up meetings and emails. For example, one noted that it was the “Design Your Own” program that strengthened her successful semester because it highlighted resources that would meet her needs. She also mentioned how this experience allowed a more collaborative rapport with her advisor and made her feel like an individual, not just another student at the university.

With the support of existing university technology and effective resources, the SPEA intervention program continues to grow and help students succeed. To initiate this program, advisors simply researched and contacted existing campus resources and reviewed university technology systems. This allowed advisors to make progress quickly and fostered collaboration with other units on campus, an effort that has bolstered participation for staff and students in each subsequent semester. SPEA’s probation program allows advisors to realize the individualized program for which Higgins (2003) advocates, ultimately helping each student reach his or her own unique potential through collaboration with the academic community.

Laura Asbury
Associate Director, Kelley Living Learning Center
Kelley School of Business
Indiana University

Kristin Lively
Assistant Director for Graduate and Undergraduate Programs
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University-Purdue University – Indianapolis

James Eckerty
Academic Advisor
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University-Purdue University – Indianapolis


Cruise, C. (2002). Advising students on academic probation. Retrieved from The Mentor website: http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/021028cc.htm.

Frost, S. H. (1991). Academic advising for student success: A system of shared responsibility. ASHE; ERIC Higher Education Report #3. Washington, DC: The George Washington University.

Heisserer, D.L. & Parette, P. (2002). Advising at-risk students in college and university settings. College Student Journal, 36(1), 69-84.

Higgins, E.M. (2003). Advising students on probation. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-students-on-probation.aspx.



Suspension or Dismissal without Time Away: Implications for an Alternative Program

Julie Preece, Cynthia Wong, Nathan Walch, Irene Windham, Ronald Chapman, and Scott Hosford, Brigham Young University

Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Julie Preece and Cynthia Wong in our upcoming Webinar, Advising Strategies for Students on Academic Probation.

BYU team.jpgMost universities have academic probation, suspension, and dismissal policies for students who fall below accepted academic standards (Cruise, 2002; Johnson, 2006). While most suspension and dismissal policies require students to take time away from the university, many programs include provisions for students to either return to good academic standing or return to the university after a specified amount of time away. Petitions or appeals processes allow institutions to make case-by-case determinations regarding students with exceptional circumstances or conditions.

While some institutions focus on providing appropriate intervention programs to assist these students (Austin, Cherney, Crowner & Hill, 1997; Dill, Gilbert, Hill, Minchew, & Sempier, 2010), there has been discussion about the efficacy of permitting students to continue at the institution  after earning a suspension or dismissal (Cogan, 2010).

At Brigham Young University (BYU), students who earn below 2.0 GPA after being on probation receive a suspension standing. Suspension requires students to spend one year away from the university. If students earn a second suspension (also known as dismissal), they are required to spend three years away. Less than 1% of the student body each semester are suspended or dismissed. Once academic standings are calculated, the Academic Support Office (ASO) notifies students of their standings via phone calls, emails, and letters.

Due to unique timing issues at the end of the fall semester in 2001, 2009, 2010, and 2011, the ASO experienced a recurring dilemma that disrupted the traditional academic standing process. As a result, students who were suspended and dismissed were given the option to remain at the university without spending the mandatory time away.

This article will address what happens to students who are suspended or dismissed, but not required to spend time away from the university. We will outline the main features of an alternative program (Option 3 Program) which allowed students to remain at the university without spending time away, and will also include statistics on post-semester academic success rates of students who participated in the Option 3 Program. Finally, we will conclude with a discussion on lessons learned while designing and implementing the Option 3 Program.

Rationale for Creating the Option 3 Program

After processing grades at the end of each semester, ASO advisors typically have several days to meet with newly suspended and dismissed students in order to

  • determine whether students are eligible to remain in school based on extenuating circumstances;
  • assist students with processing grade changes and petitions;
  • facilitate communication between students, faculty, and staff in academic departments and college advisement centers; and
  • help students transfer to other universities.

In fall semesters 2009, 2010, and 2011, grade processing occurred directly before the New Year’s holiday. Without sufficient time for advisors to make multiple contacts (phone calls, emails, and letters) to students regarding their academic standing, many students would have returned to the university on the first day of the winter semester (January to April) only to find out that they were suspended or dismissed.

The late notification would have caused significant problems for students, especially international students, by jeopardizing their student visas, eliminating opportunities for appeals or petitions, limiting the ability to transfer to another university, interrupting housing contracts, and delaying graduation plans.

When the timing dilemma first occurred at the end of fall semester 2001, the ASO simply allowed all suspended/dismissed students to continue taking classes the next semester without taking time away from the university. This decision was mainly due to the limitation of having only two academic advisors at the time.

When the ASO advising staff more than doubled in 2009, the director decided to implement the Option 3 Program with the goal of helping students on suspension and dismissal become more academically successful upon return. The premise of the Option 3 Program was that students had the option of remaining at the university regardless of their suspension or dismissal, providing that the student participated in the Option 3 Program outlined by the ASO.

Description of the Option 3 Program

On the evening of grade processing in 2009, students were sent notification via email and mail that academic standing changes had been made. We provided a thorough written explanation of the Option 3 Program along with an Academic Choice Response Sheet which students had to return to the ASO within the first week of winter semester, indicating which option they selected.

The Option 3 Program provided students with three choices:

  • Option 1: Students could voluntarily take their entire time away (one year away for academic suspension, three years away for academic dismissal) from the university to resolve their issues before returning. Students who chose Option 1 were encouraged to work with an ASO advisor during their time away.
  • Option 2: Students could voluntarily spend at least six months away from the university to resolve any issues, and then petition to return before their year away was completed.
  • Option 3: Students had the opportunity to remain in school without spending any time away from the university.

Students were disqualified from selecting Option 3 if their college deans and department chairs were not supportive of the student remaining in school. For the 2010 and 2011 Option 3 Program, students were also disqualified if they had taken advantage of Option 3 previously or had been academically suspended/dismissed during the previous 12 months or already had a petition granted. Finally, students were disqualified if they failed to turn in the Academic Choice Response Sheet by the deadline or if they failed to attend one of the Option 3 workshops.

Regardless of the option they chose, it was strongly recommended that all students personally visit with an ASO advisor. Option 3 students were required to attend a 1 ½-hour workshop hosted by the ASO staff. Each student had the choice of three different workshop times; all were held during the second week of winter semester.

The Option 3 workshops consisted of a more thorough discussion of the three options and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Students were also notified that if, by the end of winter semester they earned below a 2. 0 GPA again, their original academic standing of suspension or dismissal would be reinstated and they would be required to take their time away. Parts of the workshops highlighted available resources on campus and approximately 30 minutes of the workshops focused on helping students develop better academic success skills. The workshops ended with an invitation for students to work with an ASO advisor regardless of the option they chose.


During the semesters when we offered the Option 3 Program, we found that Option 3 students performed slightly better academically than when no interventions were offered at all.

The table below outlines the total percentages of students who: 1) returned to good standing, 2) remained on probation or 3) graduated at the end of the semester.

Table 1: Percentage of students who returned to good standing, remained on probation, or graduated from BYU the semester after their respective interventions



Percentage of students

Fall 2001


54. 00%

Fall 2009

Option 3

67. 37%

Fall 2010

Option 3

62. 00%

Fall 2011

Option 3

62. 92%


When compared to the group of students who were allowed to continue without any intervention (as was the case after fall 2001), the table above indicates that Option 3 students were slightly more successful academically based on higher percentages of students who returned to good academic standing, remained on probation, or graduated from the university.

We attribute this improvement to the fact that the ASO staff had more contact with academically struggling students through intrusive advisement and multiple interactions before, during and after the Option 3 workshops.

One drawback is that while intrusive advisement was helpful for the students participating in the Option 3 Program, the program created a heavy load of additional responsibilities for advisors during a busy time in the semester. Advisors reported feeling exhausted, not only by dedicating more advisement hours for the students, but also by offering evening workshops to accommodate students’ schedules.

One challenge we encountered while designing the Option 3 Program was that we did not have a contingency plan for students who failed to attend the designated workshops. Reasons students gave for missing the workshops ranged from having their cars get stuck in the snow to dealing with a bed bug infestation. We were not sure how to address these “exceptions” because we believed that offering the Option 3 Program was already an exception. When these issues came up, it became clear that some students were on suspension or dismissal for a reason, causing us to question again whether they would benefit from spending time away from the university.

Despite the few minor drawbacks of the Option 3 program, the main conclusion is that students who participate in the Option 3 program perform better academically than students who simply remain at the university with no intervention at all. 

Julie Preece, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University

Cynthia Wong, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University

Nathan Walch, M.S.
Brigham Young University

Irene Windham, M.A.
Brigham Young University

Ronald Chapman, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University

Scott Hosford, Ph.D.
Brigham Young University


Austin, M., Cherney, E., Crowner, J., & Hill, A. (1997). The forum: Intrusive group advising for the probationary student. NACADA Journal, 17(2), 45-47.

Cogan, M.F. (2010). Predicting success of academically dismissed undergraduate students using quality point status. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 12(4), 387-406. doi:10. 2190/CS. 12. 4. a. Retrieved from: http://baywood.metapress.com/app/home/contribution. asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,1,8;journal,13,58;linkingpublicationresults,1:300319,1

Cruise, C.A. (2002). Advising students on academic probation. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 4. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/021028cc.htm

Dill, A.L., Gilbert, J.A., Hill, J.P., Minchew, S.S, & Sempier, T.A. (2010). A successful retention program for suspended students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory And Practice, 12(3), 277-291. doi:10. 2190/CS. 12. 3. b. Retrieved from http://web. a. ebscohost. com/ehost/detail?sid=aa5d38f0-f7fc-4c79-9afc-90961ed5f692%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4214&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=psyh&AN=2010-25125-002

Johnson, I. Y. (2006). Analysis of stopout behavior at a public research university: The multi-spell discrete-time approach. Research in Higher Education, 47(8), 905-934.


Maximizing the Use of an Early Alert System through Advisor Outreach


Kelly W. Reddick, John Trifilo, Steven B. Asby, Diane Majewski, and Jayne Geissler, East Carolina University

Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Kelly Reddick in our upcoming Webinar, Advising Strategies for Students on Academic Probation.

ECU team.jpgThe emphasis on increasing student retention and graduation rates at institutions of higher education is driving the creation and implementation of many student success tools. One popular way to identify students in academic difficulty is the use of an academic early alert system (Lynch-Holmes, Troy & Ramos, 2012). Faculty are prompted to initiate the process by sending notifications to students, which informs students of their academic performance early and often during the academic term. Depending on the system’s capability, academic advisors may receive a copy of their advisees’ notifications at the same time the students receive them. These systems provide an opportunity for advisors to follow up with students to discuss potential intervention strategies. In this article, the authors discuss the role of advisors in the effective use of an early alert system, opportunities and challenges for the advisor, and process strategies that advisors may implement.

The Role of an Academic Advisor in an Early Alert System:  Opportunities and Challenges

A quality student-advisor relationship is critical in assisting students with educational decisions and can bridge a personal connection to the institution. In fact, students rate academic advising as a strength and place it as a priority in their college experience (Noel-Levitz, 2013). A key tool in facilitating dialogue among faculty, students, and advisors is an effective early alert process, which provides a communication channel among the three parties. As such, an early alert process incorporates student development, engagement, and persistence theory foundations by providing students with direct feedback from individuals who impact their academic success.  An advisor follow-up process through the early alert system allows advisors to go beyond traditional advising responsibilities (e.g., registering for courses and checking off graduation requirements) to purposefully building a support structure with their advisees.

Academic advisor follow-up has the potential to create a dialogue with the student which can develop rapport, assess the student’s needs, and connect the student to the appropriate support service. To facilitate an effective outreach to students, advisors utilize email, phone, and individual meetings. It is important for advisors to initiate follow-up since students, especially those at risk, may be reluctant to resolve academic concerns independently. Being advocates to connect students to the many campus services and encouraging students to seek support provide rich opportunities for advisors to intervene early in the semester. During follow-up, advisors discuss options for the student to take action towards resolving the raised concerns. These actions may include recommending that the student talk to his or her professor, change study habits, seek tutoring or other support services, or initiate a course drop.

Academic advisors face many challenges in providing regular follow-up to students. As more faculty embrace the effectiveness of the system, the notification traffic can become overwhelming to an advisor. When East Carolina University (ECU) implemented an early alert system (Starfish Retention Solutions™) in Fall 2011, 28,000 notifications (kudos, academic concerns, attendance related) were sent to students and their advisors. During Fall 2013, faculty initiated almost 46,000 notifications to 16,700 unique students.

Advisor Strategies for Effective Early Alert Follow-up and Outreach

At ECU, professional advisors typically carry an average caseload of 350 students. Faculty initiate the majority of these notifications during the academic registration period when pre-registration advising appointments are prevalent. In order to provide follow-up to their students, especially during high work periods, advisors primarily use students’ campus email addresses. Table 1 indicates that 96% of advisors use email to follow up with students, which often prompts a face-to-face meeting. In 2011 and 2013, 100% of the advisors indicated that they provided some form of follow-up.   

Table 1:  Advisor follow-up to early alert notifications.


Follow-up method

Advisor follow-up to advisees following notifications











Face-to-Face Meeting




Phone Advisee




Social Media




No Follow-up





Focus groups for academic advisors revealed that they often utilized a follow-up process with students and offered strategies for managing high volume of notifications:

  • Scheduling a daily or weekly time dedicated solely to notification follow-up is a helpful time management strategy, especially when advising calendars fill up early. This time can be used to read through notifications, prioritize notifications, and reach out to students.
  • Students in academic difficulty and at risk for suspension should receive priority for follow-up.  It is recommended to reach out by phone instead of email to encourage a meeting and discuss progress in the semester.
  • Advisors should take a more aggressive approach in following up with students who receive three or more academic difficulty notifications in order to investigate factors that may be affecting academic success.
  • Incoming freshman and transfer students should also receive priority for follow-up.  An email correspondence is generally sufficient to initiate communication and explain the importance of taking action after receiving a notification.

Admittedly, the use of email to communicate with students continues to be the most popular advisor follow-up tool. As such, advisors should pay close attention to the content, structure, and length of the correspondence. Although the initial inclination of an advisor might be to send a detailed list of  everything the student needs to do, a long email message may be off-putting to students (and difficult to read on a phone). Instead, a short, informal message expresses concern and availability to the advisee. Messages should encourage a response from the student and ease into a dialogue between the student and advisor. Including specific details about the student’s academic situation will help the advisor remember the main details about this student’s academic performance. An example of the initial follow-up message is below:

Hi, Will – Hope you are enjoying this warm weather! I saw that you had a flag for your Ethics course and wanted to make sure everything was going okay. Let’s talk soon!   Kelly

By using the abbreviated email outreach, students have an open-ended opportunity to respond that reflects their individual situation. In yearly surveys, many advisees indicate appreciation for the effort that the advisor made and often offer an explanation for their struggle or simply let the advisor know that they are “back on track.”  An example of an advisee response is:

Ms Reddick,
Thank you for your concern in regards to my academic success, it is a good feeling to have someone on your side cheering for you. I saw that you said we can meet Friday (tomorrow). How about 9:00 a.m.? Thanks once again for your concern.

Process Strategies to Create Advisor Buy-In to Early Alert Outreach

In order to reinforce the importance of the early alert notification follow-up and outreach from advisors, the following approaches should be considered:

  • Inform faculty and professional advisors of the critical nature of follow-up using student examples and responses to provide a personal meaning.
  • Provide workshops and guides on how to efficiently manage the early alert system and follow-up. Depending on the early alert system, advisors may have options regarding the receipt process (specifying when and how often to receive copies of notifications) and sorting options (including identifying advisees with three or more alerts).
  • Share advisee survey results and how students view emails or phone calls from an advisor to increase faculty and advisor buy-in.
  • Present universal student success research and/or campus research indicating the effectiveness of the early alert system.
  • Conduct a yearly assessment of the early alert system on campus. Collect both quantitative and qualitative data from faculty, students, and advisors regarding use of and satisfaction with the early alert system. Include open-ended questions and encourage each population to make recommendations for improvement.
  • Provide retention and graduation data to faculty and professional advisors and highlight trends and goals. If there are performance measurements tied to these students’ success targets, reiterate those goals and how it may impact the university budget structure to underscore the emphasis on student success programs and processes.

The initiation of the advisor outreach process is one of the most critical extensions of the early alert system.  It targets struggling students and provides a consistent opportunity for advisors to communicate with students who might otherwise fall through the cracks of the system. Although an early alert system offers obvious benefits, it is important to take advantage of the advising opportunities provided through the system, whether it is encouraging action or simply building rapport.

Kelly W. Reddick
Academic Advisor, Major Advisement Program
East Carolina University

John Trifilo
Project Manager, Starfish
Academic Advisor, College of Arts & Sciences
East Carolina University

Steven B. Asby
Associate Director, Academic Advising & Support
East Carolina University

Diane Majewski
Special Projects Director, Office of Undergraduate Studies
East Carolina University

Jayne Geissler
Executive Director of Retention Programs and Undergraduate Studies
East Carolina University


Light, R.J. (2001). Making the most of college. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lynch‐Holmes, K. Troy, A.B., & Ramos, I. (2012). Early alert & intervention: Top practices for retention (White paper: connect.edu). Retrieved from http://info.connectedu.com/Portals/119484/docs/early_alert_white_paper_final.pdf

Nadler, L.B. & Nadler, M.K. (1999). Faculty and student expectations/perceptions of the adviser-advisee relationship. Journal of the Association for Communication Administration. 28(2), 47-59.

Noel-Levitz (2013). National student satisfaction and priorities report. Retrieved from www.noellevitz.com/Benchmark.

Peterson, M., Wagner, J.A., & Lamb, C.W. (2001). The role of advising in non-returning students’ perceptions of their university. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 10(3), 45-59.

Life after Probation

Lynnae Selberg, Vicki Maxa, and Erin Busscher, Grand Rapids Community College

Editor’s Note: The GRCC approach to advising for probationary students was recognized as an Exemplary Practice in the 2014 NACADA Pocket Guide, Advising Students on Academic Probation.

GRCC team.jpgFor many students at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), landing on academic probation was akin to a death sentence in terms of academic success.  Despite a variety of services to assist students with their academic success, first semester probation students were highly at risk of leaving the college.  The Counseling & Career Center (CCC), which provides academic advising for the college, was charged with evaluating the services in existence.  After completing this assessment, the department was tasked with developing new services based on student need through the development and implementation of a new comprehensive probation plan.

Knowing that students at community colleges struggle with “optional” (McClenney & McClenney, 2010), CCC personnel determined that the new approach must be intentional, with numerous points of contact, and have mandatory components in order to effect an impact on student success. 

Beginning the Work

The work began with the evaluation of services that were already in place.   Students who landed on probation were assigned to an academic advisor.  Each student was then placed into that advisor’s Blackboard organization.  This point of contact provided students with information, connected them to resources, offered guidance, and reminded them of important dates and deadlines.  “First time on probation” students were then mandated to attend an Academic Success Workshop (ASW).  This one-hour workshop is facilitated by an advisor who reviews the policy regarding probation and suspension, discusses academic motivation, helps students identify barriers, establishes available resources, and secures signing of an Academic Success Contract.  Students who do not attend the workshop have a hold prohibiting registration placed on their accounts until they do attend.

Systemic Changes Needed

Next, the CCC looked at systemic changes that could help promote student success on the front end.  A mandatory orientation policy will require all new students with 11 or fewer transferrable credits to attend a New Student Orientation (NSO).  This policy will go into effect in Winter 2015 (construction/renovation limitations and concomitant space issues pushed the initiative back a year). The NSO will provide each student with a wealth of information, a short one-on-one session with an advisor, and hands-on experience in accessing the various pieces of technology that the new student will be required to utilize.  Subsequent to the NSO experience, a mandatory first-year experience course (CLS 100) is required for all first-time college students who did not place into foundational (developmental) courses or who had less than a 3.0 high school GPA (this policy went into effect Winter 2014).  Students take this 10-week, credit-bearing course during their first semester.  The CLS 100 class empowers students by supporting their navigation of the college environment even as they learn specific skills to facilitate academic success.  Course content for CLS 100 was developed by the counselors/advisors and is predominantly taught by these staff members.   A more intensive version of the College Success Course is required for students who test into two or more developmental courses. 

Collaborative Communication Plan

Although GRCC provided all these services, students indicated to advisors that they were not aware of the services and resources available to help them.  The collaborative communication plan was developed out of the need for repeated, intentional interactions with students to help them understand the self-imposed barriers to success they were experiencing. The goal of this comprehensive plan is to involve different populations of faculty and staff around campus and facilitate their outreach to students in an intentional manner over the course of the semester.

The elements of the plan are as follows:

  1. Prior to the semester, the Counseling & Career Center (CCC) reaches out to students who have just failed a class or dropped the prerequisite for an upcoming class.  This contact occurs between semesters, thus driving students to adjust their schedules.  The second contact is to those students who are enrolled in more than 12 credit hours to encourage them to lighten their load until they can work themselves off probation.  Finally, counselors/advisors reach out to students who have built a schedule with poor class combinations (two or more lab sciences or math classes, accounting and economics, or other difficult combinations of courses) to encourage them to adjust their schedules until they come off probation.
  2. During the first week, the College Success Center reaches out to students to see how classes are progressing.  They talk to the students about the syllabi, course expectations, and their course load.  They connect them with resources if any red flags are identified.
  3. During weeks three through five, the CCC sends flyers to faculty with the times and dates of the general workshop series and asks the faculty to encourage attendance and/or offer extra credit for student participation.  The general workshop series consists of 21 different workshops offered at different times and dates, free of charge, to students.  Workshops include topics such as time management, study skills, test-taking, career planning, relationships, transfer planning, note-taking, and other factors which can affect a student’s academic success.
  4. Beginning at approximately weeks four through six, the Enrollment Center contacts students, again checking to see how they are doing in classes.  The primary goal is to encourage enrollment in the upcoming semester, but this contact also provides a further opportunity for a struggling student to make a connection within the college.  Referrals are effected as necessary.
  5. At midterm, the Tutoring Center reaches out to students to encourage use of resources on campus.  They too talk with students about how classes are going, but their primary goal is to encourage early use of services.
  6. The academic departments are then given the names of students listed by their declared major who are on probation.  The departments reach out to these students following midterms.  Through this contact, information or referrals are provided, tailored to a student’s individual needs.

Through these carefully timed, intentional interventions, each student is provided with a number of connections on campus.  The intent is for each student to identify a person with whom to build a relationship. This collaborative work has the support of the provost to help provide buy-in from cross-functional departments across campus.

Weekly announcements are pushed out to probationary students both as an announcement and email.  These communications outline important information for the student based on the week, dates, and deadlines, and include helpful hints, encouragement to come in to talk with a counselor/advisor, and recommendations on available resources.

Lastly, the CCC makes a concerted effort to work with faculty concerning the Early Alert system on campus, reminding faculty of the service and how it could help reach struggling students.  The CCC team encourages faculty to use the system through trainings, in-services, and departmental meetings.

Comprehensive Probation Plan Results

After the first semester the full plan was implemented, the college experienced a reduction of 56 student suspensions, dropping the rate of those suspended from 25% to 20% of the students on academic probation.  In addition, the college realized an increase in the number (from 164 to 175) of students who continued on probation.  Finally, an increase in the number of students who achieved academic good standing after experiencing probation was observed; in Winter 2013, 37% of the students on academic probation achieved good standing.  This number increased in Fall 2013 to 69%.  The CCC team has completed 18 months of this plan and continues to experience similar results.  The following observations were noted:

  • Despite the primary intervention being the first semester the student found themselves on probation, these students continued to find success in subsequent semesters. 
  • Students who attended the ASW achieved at a higher rate.
  • Students who came in to meet with a counselor/advisor achieved at a higher rate.
  • The students who attended an ASW or came in to meet with a counselor/advisor early in the semester (by week four) achieved at a higher rate.

Clearly, this high-touch, multi-faceted approach coordinated by the CCC provides ample opportunity for students to connect with faculty and staff.  Resources are emphasized by a variety of college personnel, and students begin to feel empowered to make positive changes in their academic standing rather than viewing probation as a punitive measure.  This difference in perception is the beginning of the path to academic success.








Winter 2012







Summer 2012







Fall 2012







Winter 2013







Summer 2013







Fall 2013







Key: PRB1= first time on probation, PRBC= continued probation, SUSP=suspended, %PRB to SUSP is the % of probation students from previous semester who were suspended (our key indicator)

Authors’ Note: When “advisor” is mentioned, it should be noted that at GRCC 90% of the advisors are also licensed professional counselors.

Lynnae Selberg, MA, LPC, CRC
Program Director for Counseling & Career Center
Grand Rapids Community College

Vicki Maxa, Ed.D., LPC
Assistant Professor/Counselor
Grand Rapids Community College

Erin Busscher, MA
Transfer & Articulation Coordinator
Grand Rapids Community College

References/Helpful Links:

Higgins, E. M.  (2003). Advising students on probation.  NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-students-on-probation.aspx

Lucier, K. L.  (2014). Academic probation.  http://collegelife.about.com/od/academiclife/g/Academic-Probation.htm

McClenney, K. and McClenney, B. (Eds) (2010).  Reflections on leadership for student success. Austin, TX:  The University of Texas at Austin, Community College Leadership Program.

GRCC Links:

Workshops: http://cms.grcc.edu/counselingandcareercenter/events/generalworkshops

Academic Success Workshop: http://cms.grcc.edu/counselingandcareercenter/events/academicsuccessworkshop

Academic Advising: The Key to Increasing Retention among Students with Anxiety Disorders

Kerstin Bothner and Janice C. Stapley, Monmouth University

Kerstin Bothner.jpgJanice Stapley.jpgPsychiatric disabilities have become “one of the fastest growing categories of disability in the college student population” (Belch, 2011, p. 73).  Unfortunately, they are often the least academically supported and encounter stigma and discrimination (GlenMaye & Bolin, 2007).  The societal stigma against those who have psychological disorders creates barriers to obtaining adequate help and support, and the lack of attention to this issue prevents methods for supporting these individuals from being developed and implemented.  The laws in place to protect those with mental health impairments are rather ambiguous, leaving what is considered a “reasonable accommodation" largely up to interpretation by individual universities and disability specialists.  For academic advisors, insight from recent research which highlights the developmental challenges and neurological differences in those who suffer from a mental illness can lead to improved practices and procedures.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2013), 40 million Americans aged 18 and older suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder during any given year; that’s 18% of the United States’ population!  With increased accommodations afforded to students in grades K-12, as well as advancements in psychotropic medications and therapy techniques, more students with psychiatric disabilities attempt postsecondary education (Belch, 2011; Collins & Mowbray, 2005). Students with anxiety disorders are entering the world of academia at record numbers and colleges are not prepared to advise and accommodate them.  In fact, most students with psychiatric disabilities will withdraw from college (Collins & Mowbray, 2005), highlighting the need for improved services for this population. 

Though the specific symptoms and challenges vary across individuals, anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive and irrational fear, dread, and uncertainty (NIMH, 2013).  They are cyclical in nature and can affect various aspects of cognition which are essential for performing well in school (Kiuhara & Huefner, 2008).  Recent research in neuroscience has demonstrated that there are distinct functional and neuroanatomical differences in the brains of anxiety sufferers (Tromp et al., 2012), thus showing that the physiological basis of disorderly fear should receive no less consideration than any physical or learning disability. 

Traditionally aged college students generally fall into the developmental period known as “emerging adulthood” (Arnett, 2007).  This time is referred to as the “age of possibilities” since young people have the freedom to explore and express themselves, try out new careers, and solidify their worldview.  Ironically, this is also one of the most tumultuous times in a young adult’s life, as this freedom is matched by frequent change and instability.  There is a stark difference between the structured environment of high school and the unstructured, independent environments which emerging adults face at college (Stapley, 2014).  Many students experience changes in their living situations, which include moving in with new roommates and being away from life-long social support networks. Making this transition poses great challenges for all emerging adults and may amplify the stress and coping deficits that already exist for students who suffer from anxiety disorders. For those suffering from anxiety, uncertainty and instability can be daunting.  These students may benefit especially from the developmental advising approach which facilitates the academic, personal, and emotional growth of students by viewing them holistically (Grites, 2013).  In the case of those with psychiatric disabilities, developmental advising includes the consideration of their unique challenges.

Based on our research (Bothner, 2013), managing life with an anxiety disorder is particularly challenging during emerging adulthood.  The increasing number of college students with anxiety disorders necessitates updated training for academic advisors, and perhaps especially for faculty academic advisors.  Since emerging adults are very self-focused (Arnett, 2007), any public discussion of their challenges is embarrassing for them.  Thus, academic advisors and faculty need to be vigilant about maintaining confidentiality regarding their special accommodations. It is challenging to get students to disclose to Disabilities Services, since they are experiencing the “age of possibilities” and many, especially first-year students, want to try to manage their coursework without any accommodations. Based upon our research, we offer the following suggestions.

  • Training for academic advisors should include the specific case of those with anxiety disorders.
  • Developing rapport with the advisee and spending time in relationship building is optimal although not possible in some college settings. 
  • Advisors should ask in a general manner about issues that might affect a student’s schedule and course load. 
  • Though it is not always well received because of financial implications, a reduced course load may be particularly beneficial for this population.
  • Advisors can also facilitate the progress of students with anxiety disorders by advocating for them with faculty who may not understand the specific challenges of doing coursework with an anxiety disorder.

Many intelligent, ambitious students are entering college ill-equipped to handle the college environment and/or rigor of academia without extra guidance.  They “…encounter what should be a minor obstacle, and they freak out… Things spiral, and before they know it, they’re back at home, resentful, demoralized and in debt” (Tough, 2014).  

According to Collins and Mowbray (2005), interrupting the pursuit of a degree can affect the likelihood that students will return to their studies and often results in “a trajectory of poor vocational outcomes and poverty” (p. 304). With educational persistence lower for those with psychological disorders and proper academic advising being the nexus of student retention, it is imperative that effort be made in developing effective strategies for this population. For those with anxiety disorders, where feeling connected to peers and the institution may be especially challenging, cultivating a strong advisor-student relationship may be the best way to help with attachment to the institution (Drake, 2011) and with maintaining` matriculation through degree completion.

Kerstin Bothner
Research Assistant, Social Development Lab, Psychology Department
Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ

Janice C. Stapley
Associate Professor of Psychology
Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ

Editor’s Note: Janice Stapley is currently working to contribute further to the academic advising body of knowledge through a NACADA-funded Research Grant:  An Examination of Academic Advice Seeking within an Emerging Adulthood Framework.


Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it, what is it good for?  Child Development Perspectives, 1 (2), 68-73.

Belch, H. A. (2011).  Understanding the experiences of students with psychiatric disabilities: A foundation for creating conditions of support and success. New Directions for Student Services, 134, 73-94. doi: 10.1002/ss 396.

Bothner, K. (2013). A Phenomenological Study of College Experiences Among Students With an Anxiety Disorder.  Poster Presented at the 59th Semi-Annual Department of Psychology Conference, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ.

Collins, M., & Mowbray, C. T. (2005).  Higher education and psychiatric disabilities: National survey of campus disability services. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75 (2), 304315.  doi: 10.1037/0002-9432.75.2.

Drake, J.K.  (2011, July/August). The role of academic advising in student retention and persistence. About Campus. Published online in Wiley Online Library doi: 10.002/abc.20062.

GlenMaye, L. F., & Bolin, B. L. (2007). Disabilities and justice: Meeting the needs of social work students with psychiatric disabilities. Journal of Social Work Education, 41(3), 117-131.

Grites, T. J. (2013). Developmental academic advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. M. Miller, (eds.) Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 45-59). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kiuhara, S. A. & Huefner, D. S. (2008). Students with psychiatric disabilities in higher educationsettings: The Americans with Disabilities Act and beyond. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 19, 103-113.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2013). Anxiety disorders (NIH Publication No.09-3879). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Stapley, J. C. (2014). Music and emotion regulation among emerging adults.  In F. R. Spielhagen and P. D. Schwartz (eds.) Adolescence in the 21st Century (pp. 225-238). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Tromp, P. M., Grupe, D. W., Oathes, D. J., McFarlin, D. R., Hernandez, P. J., Kral, T. R., Lee, J. E., Adams, M., Alexander, A. L., & Nitschke, J. B. (2012).  Reduced structural connectivity of a major frontolimbic pathway in generalized anxiety disorder.  Archives of General Psychiatry. 69(9), 925-934. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.2178.

Tough, P. (2014). Who gets to graduate? http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/magazine/who-gets-to-graduate.html? 2.

Exploring the Relationship between Student Understanding of Degree Requirements and Academic Performance

Hannah Whitcomb and Spencer Mathews, Bellevue University

Hannah Whitcomb.jpgSpencer Mathews.jpgMost of our institution’s 13,000 part-time and full-time students are adult and distance learners; however, the campus is striving to develop a more vibrant residential community.  As a result, we chose to measure the correlation between level of understanding of degree requirements and academic performance among the aforementioned residential population of approximately 450 students.  Based on the lack of literature on this topic, further research is necessary to discover if a relationship exists.  It is important to us to better understand what factors may impact students’ academic performance and what we, as advisors, should focus on in our work with students.

We conducted this study at a private, non-profit institution located in a Midwestern metropolitan area. The following questions were developed based on the lack of knowledge regarding the relationship between level of understanding of degree requirements and academic performance among college students:

  1. Does a positive correlation exist between level of understanding of degree requirements and academic performance?
  2. Does the level of understanding of degree requirements differ among various student groups?

We hypothesized a positive correlation would exist between level of understanding of degree requirements and academic performance.   We also predicted academic class standing and full-time enrollment status would positively influence students’ level of understanding of degree requirements. 

We began by developing a 20-question survey designed to obtain student demographic information (i.e. sex, age, academic class standing, enrollment status, citizenship, and intercollegiate athletics participation) and measure participants’ level of understanding of our institution’s degree requirements.  Question topics included, but were not limited to, the minimum number of total credit hours, minimum grade point average, minimum upper-level credit hours, and general education course requirements necessary to obtain a bachelor’s degree.  We conducted a pilot study consisting of 13 daytime, residential students prior to administering the survey.  This helped ensure proper organization of the instrument and provided us with an opportunity to improve the surveying process. 

We developed our participant selection criteria based on access to residential students, professors’ willingness to allow us to survey their students during class, and a wide range of academic rigor (i.e. upper and lower level courses).  We surveyed 116 participants within eight daytime, residential classes during the fall and winter terms of the 2013-14 academic year.  Of the 116 participants, 57 identified asfemale and 59 as male.  The sample included two non-degree seeking students, seven first-year students, 19 sophomores, 35 juniors, and 53 seniors; over 97% were between the ages of 19 and 39.  The sample consisted of 25 international students, 46 student-athletes, and 12 part-time students.

Participants’ average level of understanding of degree requirements was 52% and their overall grade point average was 2.83 (4.0 scale).  Although we hypothesized a positive correlation would exist between level of understanding of degree requirements and academic performance, a strong statistical significance was not found.  Even so, we discovered several trends.  We believe these trends are important to understand and keep in mind during our work as academic advisors.

For example, male participants had a higher level of understanding (53%) yet a lower grade point average (2.78) than females (51%; 2.89).  Furthermore, sophomore participants had the lowest level of understanding (50%), but their grade point average was the highest (2.93).  Additionally, juniors had the highest level of understanding (54%) yet had the lowest grade point average (2.77).  Moreover, international students had a lower level of understanding of degree requirements (45%), but had a higher grade point average (2.86) than domestic students (55%; 2.82).  Also, student-athletes had a lower level of understanding of degree requirements (50%) yet had a higher grade point average (2.9) than non-athletes (54%; 2.79).  Most interestingly, a moderate negative correlation was found among part-time students who had a 52% level of understanding and a 2.80 grade point average (r=-.50). 

Based on the results of this study, we have developed several learning outcomes.  First, we encourage academic advisors to not attempt to predict students’ understanding of degree requirements solely based on grade point average.  For instance, a student with a 4.0 grade point average will not necessarily have a stronger grasp of degree requirements than a student struggling to meet minimum standards of academic progress.  We attribute this phenomenon to an increased number of sessions struggling students have with advisors.  For example, if students on academic probation are required to meet with academic advisors for course registration, they may have more frequent interaction with advisors and, as a result, experience increased levels of understanding of degree requirements. 

Furthermore, academic advisors should not attempt to predict students’ level of understanding of degree requirements based on academic class standing.  For example, a senior will not necessarily have a higher level of understanding of degree requirements than a first-year student.  Therefore, advisors should discuss degree requirements with students based on individual need rather than academic class standing.  Moreover, academic advisors should be aware of perceived biases when advising certain student groups.  For instance, the results of this study provided evidence that suggested student-athletes had higher grade point averages than non-athletes, which challenges the antiquated “jock” stereotype.  Lastly, if students’ level of understanding of degree requirements does not predict academic performance, academic advisors should focus advising practices on other influencers of academic success; possible factors include time management, test-taking strategies, stress management, and study skills. 

We identified multiple limitations and delimitations of this study.  Limitations included lack of randomization, instrument reliability, and sample size utilized.  Also, we determined not all questions were applicable to the sample size.  For instance, transfer students with associate’s degrees from community colleges have no need to be knowledgeable about general education requirements.  Delimitations of the study included the population chosen to survey, length of study, and participant selection. 

Although this study uncovered valuable information on the topic, several avenues of future research still exist.  For example, a similar study utilizing a larger sample size that includes participants at different institutions of higher education could increase generalizability of the results.  Our study only surveyed students taking daytime, residential courses.  With the recent increase in adult and distance education, a study that examines non-traditional student populations could help practitioners improve best practices.  Lastly, we attributed multiple touch points with advisors as a possible explanation for why students with low grade point averages had a higher understanding of degree requirements. Therefore, it would be beneficial to explore the relationship between number of advising appointments and level of understanding of degree requirements. 

Hannah Whitcomb, M.S.
Academic Advisor – Residential Student Affairs
Bellevue University

Spencer Mathews, Ed.D.
Manager, Academic Advising – Residential Student Affairs
Bellevue University


Unplanned Pregnancy Prevention: An Academic Advising Curriculum to Enhance Student Retention and College Completion


Tamra Ortgies-Young and Crystal Garrett, Georgia Perimeter College

Tamra Ortgies-Young.jpgCrystal Garrett.jpgAcademic advising professionals serve students from a variety of vantage points.  We work collectively to identify and mitigate barriers to student success.  Often a problem that causes difficulties in the classroom may show up in personal counseling sessions or present in advising checkpoints.  One such challenge that universally affects retention and graduation rates is unplanned pregnancy in college students. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 61% of women who have children after enrolling in community college do not complete their education.  Eighty-one percent of students also report that having an unplanned pregnancy during college makes it harder to accomplish their goals (The National Campaign, 2014). Therefore, academic institutions endeavor to provide student support to improve chances of college success by building connections through academic advising, first-year seminars, student organizations, and faculty initiatives, such as service-learning projects.  Indeed, many of the same members of the college community are involved in one or more of these important high-impact practices to improve student retention and graduation rates.

Faculty and staff alike can attest that the negative effects of unplanned pregnancy on student retention can be found in all types of academic institutions. However, the impact seems to be greater at two-year colleges due to difficult social conditions in the communities served by such institutions.  Academic advisors at access institutions whose missions, in part, are to break the cycle of poverty, often encounter the root cause of social problems, such as unplanned pregnancy, in their student populations.  The key to breaking the cycle and providing better chances of positive outcomes is to design institution-appropriate interventions that effect change. Several strategies can contribute to the goal of improving student retention and graduation rates.  The authors will share a few options for academic advisors who wish to address this pressing issue affecting college completion.

Form a partnership with a non-profit agency to achieve common goals.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to improve the lives and prospects of children and their families, has targeted college campuses as a focus of educational programming and partnerships to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancy (The National Campaign, 2014).  One such partnership included a consortium of six community colleges in conjunction with the American Association of Community Colleges.  Faculty in schools, including Georgia Perimeter College and Mesa Community College, designed service-learning components to be utilized in course design using The National Campaign’s online materials.  From this project, the National Campaign created three online learning modules that can be assigned to students across the spectrum of high-impact support programs, including by academic advisors and facilitators of first-year seminars. The National Campaign provides educational materials that can be disseminated by academic advising offices and student organizations and through faculty-led service-learning initiatives.

Foster a positive relationship to build student trust. Faculty and full-time academic advisors have much to cover in time-limited advising sessions, but more and more they are addressing the possible barriers to student success, even when this means venturing into the personal realm.  While this first instance of offering materials on birth control options or assigning online educational modules on the topics of reproductive health and building positive relationships may feel a bit out of the comfort zone, the reality is many students will welcome the information as a sign that their advisor cares about their college success.  The positive connection between advisor and student then often spawns a relationship that will enhance the chances that the partnership will endure until graduation or transfer.

Some students might chafe at an assignment or a verbal approach by an academic advisor on topic of pregnancy prevention.  Evidence garnered after six consecutive semesters of intervention at one institution suggests that they are few and far between.  One illustrative story is the case of a non-traditional married student with children who at first did not warm to a service-learning peer education project. Eventually, not only did “Ann” embrace the social media project to debunk myths about contraception and pregnancy, but she also became a class leader, presented a paper on her project at an honors conference, joined a peer advising club that addressed unplanned pregnancy, and started a second student club for students with children to support and educate her peers after she learned that unplanned pregnancy can be a serial event for single students without adequate information.  “Ann” could have simply completed the online modules and contributed to the class project, but the cause became personal and that experience was transformational. Student development enthusiasts will also note the leadership opportunities that may present when these interventions are employed.

Incorporate college-wide programs that raise awareness and provide resources to reduce unplanned pregnancies. Another way to raise awareness and provide information on the effects of unplanned pregnancy is for faculty members, academic advisors, and/or student organizations to hold workshops and panels, create service-learning projects, and utilize websites and technology to educate students on the effects of unplanned pregnancy on college completion (The National Campaign, 2014). For example, the college can invite speakers to talk to students about pregnancy prevention, faculty can develop service learning projects that allow students to work with pregnant teens, and academic advisors can give students access to websites and mobile apps that promote sexual health and provide users with strategies to prevent pregnancy (Brinkley, Martin, Richman & Webb, 2014). Collaboration between interested faculty, student life personnel, advising centers and student organizations can boost the reach of such initiatives through the use of social media, institutional communication platforms and joint programming (The National Campaign, 2014).

Furthermore, students can play an important role in bringing awareness to this issue. They can join peer-advising clubs or they can participate in student organizations that provide information on pregnancy prevention. Students tend be more receptive to a message from other students.  Therefore, peer-to-peer engagement is pivotal in the promotion of student success and retention.

Additional Benefits for Students and Institutions of Unplanned Pregnancy Prevention

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, addressing this social issue can also positively impact related problems including poverty, child abuse, and child health issues, as well as school drop-out rates and poor work-place preparation (The National Campaign, 2014). These disturbing outcomes beyond college completion also merit our attention.  By embracing these tools to arrest the incidence of unplanned pregnancy in our student populations, academic advisors and faculty facilitators can make a contribution to root causes of social problems that later present in student populations.

A Call to Action

A recent study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that teen birth rates declined 10% in 2013 and 57% since 1991.  While this is good news for the nation, the challenge for students at all types of institutions is still too high when unplanned pregnancy becomes an added barrier to college success (Curtin, Hamilton, Martin, & Osterman, 2013). Faculty members and academic advisors can do more to assist female students and their partners to achieve their college and career goals.  What’s more, this intervention aligns with the core values as academic advisors to be responsible to the diverse student populations that we advise and to employ a holistic approach that includes referral to a network of resources for student benefit (NACADA, 2005). The strategies suggested here have a proven track record of student engagement.  Academic advisors across the institution may wish to identify what intervention(s) would be comfortable to implement as well as which combinations of strategies and partnerships have the best chance of success at their unique institutions. The collective goal of academic advising is student success. All avenues to boost student success including unplanned pregnancy prevention should be addressed.

Tamra Ortgies-Young
Georgia Perimeter College

Crystal Garrett
Georgia Perimeter College


Brinkley, J., Martin J. R., Richman, A & Webb, M. (2014).  Sexual behavior and interest in using a sexual health mobile app to help improve and manage college students' sexual health. Sex Education, 14, 310-322. doi:10.1080/14681811.2014.889604.

Curtin, S., Hamilton, B, Martin, J., & Osterman, M. (2013). Births: Preliminary data for 2013. (National Vital Statistics Reports 63.2). Washington, DC: Retrieved from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63_02.pdf

NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising.  The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.  Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Core-values-of-academic-advising.aspx

Prentice, M., Storin, C. & Robinson, G. (2012). Make it personal: How pregnancy prevention and planning help students complete college. Washington, DC: American Association of Community College Report Retrieved from http://www.aacc.nche.edu

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2014). Retrieved from http://thenationalcampaign.org/why-it-matters


Intrusive Advising: At-Risk Students on a Commuter University Campus


Forest B. Wortham, Wright State University

Forest Wortham.jpgAdvising commuter students on a college campus is fraught with the challenges of trying to engage students during the limited time they are on campus. By definition, these students spend very little time on campus beyond class time.  When commuter students are at risk academically, there is an additional urgency to connect with them before they are placed on probation or suspended.

Experience has taught me that a caring, direct, reality-based intrusive advising model is often the most effective way to advise this population. These students often are balancing multiple demands that include but are not limited to finances, family, personal issues, job(s), academic probation, and suspension, in addition to being first generation college students. Seldom are these issues presented as the reason for seeking advising when they come in. These issues, however, often are the stumbling blocks to their achieving academic success.  Consequently, advisors find themselves helping students to develop life skills that address concerns inside and outside the classroom before academic advising.

At-risk students who are doing poorly often don’t know where to start to improve academically.   When questioned as to what they could do to improve, they say study harder and longer. While this is commendable, doing the same thing more intensely is not a prescription for success inside or outside the classroom. Commuter students come to college with the intention of getting good grades and graduating; however, somewhere along the way many lose sight of that goal and are unable to pull themselves out of the downward spiral. Providing them with resources and helping them to discover an alternative to their current situation is the beginning.

According to Earl (1987), “intrusive advising is a direct response to an identified academic crisis…It is a process of identifying students at crisis points and giving them the message, you have this problem; here is a help-service. An intrusive/proactive approach includes questioning and probing students regarding their life outside the classroom.”   With intrusive advising, the advisor literally opens Pandora’s Box and probes with the student to assess objectively what is going on in his or her life inside and outside the classroom. A word of caution: once we open Pandora’s Box and probe with the student, we have to be skilled enough to close the box when the session is complete; failure to do so will cause more harm than good.  For many students, learned behavior from high school, work, and family are the roots of their challenges. Going through this process helps students to recognize and increase their awareness of how their actions impact their success.

Awareness of Poor Academic Performance

Students’ awareness of whether they are in academic trouble and in control of their academic destiny is paramount to gaining control over their academic and social lives. According to Aspelmeier, Love, McGill, Elliott, and Pierce (2012), “Locus of control, or the tendencies of individuals toward making either internal or external attributions for their successes and failures” has an impact on a student’s ability to adapt to college life. Likewise, Stupnisky, Renaud, Perry, Ruthig, Haynes, and Rodney (2007) concluded that perceived academic control is related to internal locus of control, which is associated with better college adjustment and higher GPA. Intrusive advising provides the gateway by addressing the “real time” issues that are impeding the student.

The most direct method of addressing this is the advisor and student reviewing the student’s transcript together to identify when the academic decline began and determine if there were any life events that triggered the poor performance. For some students, this the first time they have reviewed their academic progress with an outsider, and it can be embarrassing. It is important to find points of light in their academic record. Small successes can reinforce to the student that he or she is capable of doing better despite the failures. If there are no points of light in the academic record, that can lead to a discussion focusing on goals, money, and time.

Acknowledging that their personal lives have affected their academic performance is the first step to helping students regain control of their personal and academic lives. That often leads to awareness that they are responsible for changing their behavior that can open them up to other factors impeding their academic success. Outlined below are a variety of situations that have impeded students’ academic performance and how they were approached using intrusive counseling methods.

Time Management. When students are working 30 to 50 hours a week at multiple jobs while carrying five classes for 15 credit hours, it`s no wonder their grades suffer. Together, we calculate how much time they spend in class, studying, sleeping, working, and commuting. This forces students to look at how they consciously and unconsciously spend their time. We review the schedule to identify where they are wasting their time. Students looking at the calculations remark they had never looked at their time that way. In our fast-paced, multi-tasking society, students pile on time commitments with no regard to what they have committed themselves to accomplish. Students who see an improvement in their grades and their quality of life often report that they feel good about themselves. Similarly, students who don’t make changes return with the same academic issues.

Finances.  A significant number of the students that come to my office have financial challenges. While working to pay for college isn’t new, working 30 to 50 hours a week and carrying a full-time course load is disastrous. In questioning my students as to why they need two jobs,  I have found that while many of them are paying for necessities such as rent, food, gas and utilities,  others work to pay for what I consider non-essential expenses, such as cable, mobile Internet service, and new car payments.  Conversations with students about their finances have led to several of them reducing their debt loads. Students in dire need are referred to student support services that can direct them to financial management resources.

Career/ Major Decision. Asking students why they selected their majors elicits a variety of responses: don’t know, saw it on TV, pays well, guaranteed job, I had a nice doctor/dentist/nurse, my parents told me. While these are all good starting points, they aren’t valid reasons to spend $40,000 to $80,000 and four to five years of one’s life without further exploration. In working with students who are in the abyss of indecision, I probe as to how they chose their major, what they know about the major, and what their skills and values are.  For students who exhibit flawed or no awareness as to how they chose a major, I outline how decisions are normally made and how a lack of career awareness in decision-making can affect motivation and grades. I then refer them to career services for counseling or to take an assessment inventory.

Family and Personal Issues. Family and personal issues can overwhelm students.  Students gravitate toward these issues because they think they can resolve them. Family members look to them to resolve family problems that have been going on for years after one semester or less in college. Naively, the students believe they can.

According to Koirala, Davis, and Cid (2010), the primary reasons that “students left the university were: Financial difficulties, lack of family support, lack of engagement and motivation, lack of confidence (self-efficacy), lack of academic preparation, lack of proper advisement…These students come to college and are seen as the family member with the most flexible schedule, they are family problem solvers and resources for the family. They get drawn into family needs and that becomes their priority instead of academics.” They have difficulty setting boundaries and telling their families they are busy and can’t leave campus. They will first deal with family issues; the academics become secondary. The families don’t understand the student is working, not hanging out and having fun with friends.

Working with students who are dealing with family issues is extremely delicate when it is obvious the family dynamics are dysfunctional.  As advisors, we can help students to see how family dynamics impact their quality of life and not to feel guilty or obligated to solve all the family problems.  This includes helping them develop personal crisis management skills so that aberrations in their normal routine do not result in a meltdown. Students who are the first in their family to go to college have no idea of what to expect and their family members often don’t understand the demands of college. Family members can’t understand why the person who breezed through high school with extracurricular activities and a part-time job now has to spend more time away from home and/or studying.

Students on a commuter campus have a limited amount of time on campus, and we have to take advantage of that time by addressing issues preventing students from reaching  full potential. At the same time, advisors must find a counseling style they are comfortable with; intrusive advising doesn’t work with every student. As students attempt to balance the multiple demands on their life while commuting to campus, it is imperative that advisors reach out to them early and often.

Forest B. Wortham
Academic Advisor 
College of Liberal Arts
Wright State University


Aspelmeier, J.E., Love, M.M., McGill, L.A., Elliott, A.N., & Pierce, T.W. (2012, January 20).  Self-esteem, locus of control, college adjustment, and GPA among first- and continuing-generation students: A moderator model of generational status. Published online. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Earl, W.R. (1987, September). Intrusive advising for freshmen. Academic Advising News, Vol. 9(3).

Earl, W.R. (1988). Intrusive advising of freshmen in academic difficulty. NACADA Journal, 8, 27- 33.

Gilchrist, L.Z. (n.d.). Personal and psychological problems of college students – Family  dynamics, depression, eating disorders, substance use, other psychological disorders, campus services. Educational Encyclopedia. State University.Com. http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2318/Personal-Psychological-Problems-College-Students.html

Glennen, R. (1984, June). Counseling’s bottom line at the top. The Personnel and Guidance Journal.  604-606.

Koirala, H.P., Davis, M.J., & Cid, C.R. (2010). Retention of most-at-risk entering students at a four-year college. NERA Conference Proceedings 2010. Paper 30.http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/nera_2010/30

O'Banion, T. (1972). An academic advising model. Junior College Journal, 42, 62-69.

Stupnisky, R.H., Renaud, R.D., Perry, R.P., Ruthig, J.C., Haynes, T.L. & Rodney, A.C. (2007, September). Comparing self-esteem and perceived control as predictors of first-year college students’ academic performance.  Social Psychology of Education 10(3), 303–330.

Winston, Jr. R. B., Enders, S. C., & Miller, T. K. (Eds.) (March 1982). Developmental approaches to academic advising. New Directions for Student Services, 17.

Study Structure and Techniques Must be Taught to Probation Students

Brad Bergeron, Southeastern Louisiana University

Brad Bergeron.jpbMany students are entering college unprepared for the adjustments required to succeed, such as balancing freedom vs. responsibility, time management, problem solving, and study skills. A Probation Recovery Program helps students achieve the skills and confidence necessary to overcome those deficits, and plays a pivotal role in helping students achieve success.

 Students do not do well academically for many different reasons, but one common issue is often overlooked:  Advisors must explore why and refer the student to other resources when he or she is struggling with life issues. However, for those not suffering through significant concerns, this is a teaching moment about why their high school strategy of “pay attention in class and study right before the test” no longer works. They need to be reminded that in high school, they typically went to class five days a week and spent at least six hours a day in the classroom. That is 30 hours a week of hearing and reviewing information without even considering what is done outside of school. Besides getting 30 hours a week of class time, they were also tested once a week or once every two weeks, so they had less information to recall for each test.  As a result, paying attention in class and reading over their notes before the test worked great for many high school students.

Once advisors have identified that probation students are ready to learn efficient study structure and basic techniques, they will need to help the students understand why this new behavior is worth their effort. Advisors must also learn the importance of asking the right questions. Many students will tell their advisors they failed algebra last semester and they “are just terrible at math.” They may even say they spend all their time worrying about math and their other classes are suffering as well.  Advisors may immediately think about referring to tutoring services. While referral is not inappropriate, advisors first need to spend time exploring how the student studies and practices math. How often, how long, who’s helping, or how do they approach an unfamiliar a problem?  These are all critical questions. However, one question is even more important for advisors to ask: “When no test is coming up, how many days per week are you studying or doing homework?” Many students will say they study a subject every day. However, the phrase “every day” can mean different things for each student, so it’s important to have the student give a number out of seven days in the week.

The answer advisors will hear from many students is that they study two to three days per week. Advisors may even hear students brag about how much they study, but complain they are still not making the grades they want. Students may say something like, “I study all the time. I study every day I have class, and I even study one extra day a week!” What that student is saying is they study three days a week, and advisors must remind them that they have four days to forget what they are trying to learn in three days.

Ask the student, “Are you studying, learning, mastering, and rehearsing the majority of the days of the week or do you have the majority of the days of the week to forget what you are not reviewing?” Being bad at math is like not being good at hitting a baseball. It’s embarrassing, and it’s the last thing those who are bad at it would want to do. They may also have the feeling that they are going to swing and miss again. However, if they don’t keep stepping up to the plate and trying, they are not going to get any better. Likewise, if probation students who are bad at math don’t have enough days of practicing math week after week, they too won’t get any better at math.

The next important question to ask a probation student is, “When there is no test coming up, is your teacher spending more time lecturing each week than you are spending trying to master what took them almost three hours to say?” Many students, week after week, are spending less time studying for each subject than their teacher spent lecturing on the subject. Once students realize this, they tend to be more open to solutions. Advisors should remind them the minimum study time (which doesn’t guarantee A’s and B’s), would be four hours a week for each three-credit-hour, non-science or non-math class, because students need to spend more time studying than their teacher spent lecturing in order to truly master the material. The minimum study time for math and science classes would be six hours a week.

Next, assess the study location and help the student eliminate distractions. Many students report studying in their room and more specifically, studying in their bed. However, to avoid confusing studying with relaxation, students should study at a hard desk with good lighting and no distractions.  Sometimes students go to a good location to study, but bring distractions with them, such as their friends, their smart phones, or music. Advisors should remind students that if they find themselves singing or rapping to the music, they are no longer focused on the material they are trying to study.

Another common obstacle that probation students struggle with is study technique. Rather than simply reading and rereading notes and waiting for the study guide or review session, students must spend time learning, not just “studying.” Ask students whether they understand the material well enough to teach it to others and share ways to study effectively for lecture classes, including tips such as: 

  • Pay attention in class and capture key words and main ideas.
  • Rewrite or retype your notes the same day you took them, expanding brief classroom notes into full sentences with examples; take notes from your textbook. 
  • Start your textbook reading with the title, subtitles, boldfaced words, the summary, and the questions in the back of the book. This will prepare you to focus on the structure, the most important ideas, and what questions you should be able to answer after taking notes.
  • Read section by section and take notes. Read a paragraph at a time and write down the most important ideas.
  • Quiz yourself on your notes every day to identify what you know and what you don't know. Try to think like a teacher and create as many test questions as possible.
  • Consider what questions and answers are important in addition to who, what, where, when, and why.  Be able to compare and contrast similar, but different ideas and give real life examples.
  • Quickly review what you know every day and spend more time on what you don’t know. Flash cards work great! Your list of things you don't know should get smaller and smaller as it gets closer to test day.
  • Rehearse all the things you do know! This type of light review will build your confidence, reduce worry, and allow you to get a good night’s sleep before the test.

Finally, advisors must help students conquer time management issues by creating a study plan or schedule. It becomes the students’ daily to-do list, and they cross off each 30-minute study session as they complete it. Without a study plan to follow each week, good intentions will not come to fruition. To add a component of accountability, advisors need to help monitor the students’ progress. Weekly meetings provide an opportunity to determine whether the plan is being followed accurately or if there are issues or obstacles that need to be addressed.  The regular monitoring of progress with an advisor facilitates timely identification of concerns and allows them to be addressed quickly. Resources may include the tutoring center, the writing center, or the counseling center.

By learning time management and establishing a weekly study plan, students will learn to make better choices with their available time. This may be a lesson in denial and reward.  Students may be missing some social activities or events in order to study, but will be able to celebrate their successes later. It’s important to review the process with them and have them talk about how they earned their good grades.  A complete Probation Recovery Program will teach skills and provide students with the confidence necessary to achieve their academic goals.

Brad Bergeron
Senior Academic Advisor
Center for Student Excellence
Southeastern Louisiana University

Vantage Point.jpg

Preparing for a NACADA Presentation

Kyle W. Ross, Eastern Washington University

Kyle Ross.jpgCongratulations to all advisors who are presenting at upcoming NACADA conferences!  For those who are thinking about submitting a proposal for the first time, I strongly encourage advisors to submit a proposal, take the opportunity to present, and share their thoughts with their colleagues in this great organization.  Presenting at a NACADA event is a very rewarding experience, but it can also be a little stressful.  I was a first-time presenter in 2012 at the Region 8 Conference in Portland, and I had such a great experience that I love presenting now.  After presenting and observing numerous sessions, I wanted to share some of the most helpful tips I’ve found for a presenting a successful conference session, as well as provide advisors with a few goals to consider.

Seven Tips for a Successful Session

  • Relax!  Easier said than done, but presenters should take a deep breath and relax before and during their sessions.  Before my first session in Portland, I was anxiety-ridden, thinking about what would happen if no one showed up to my co-presenter’s and my session, if no one liked the session, or if I completely froze and forgot everything I was going to say.  My partner and I practiced numerous times, and I was still extremely nervous.  What I should have been thinking was “I was accepted to present here, which means people want to learn from my session.  Advisors are all naturally supportive people, so I should not be afraid to present in front of them.  Also, my co-presenter is Lisa Laughter, Best of Region Winner the year before!  How could anything possibly go wrong?”  It is much easier to let the negative thoughts take over the day of the session, but presenters need to take a breath and let them go.
  • Present With Someone. If presenters are not quite comfortable with public speaking yet, don’t be discouraged; skills will improve with each presentation.  It might be helpful, though, to consider having a co-presenter in the first presentation.  Co-presenting will help increase confidence, especially knowing that the entire session no longer rests on one’s shoulders.  A co-presenter can help fill in points that may have been accidentally missed.  A co-presenter who has presented in the past can also share advice to improve the session.  This type of advice was especially helpful to me as I submitted proposals for the NACADA Annual Conference.  Had I not asked my friend Olga Salinas from Boise State to submit a proposal with me, I would not have known what a strong proposal looked like, and I probably would not have been accepted to present in Minneapolis for the 2014 Annual Conference.
  • Don’t Procrastinate. We tell our students this on a regular basis, so we should not procrastinate ourselves.  I admit I once made this mistake while preparing for a session and fortunately, the only negative consequence was a sleepless night before I flew to the conference venue.  However, waiting until the last minute to make and print handouts or finalize a PowerPoint or Prezi is an easy way to create panic moments before the session.  Presenters might miss a few copies on the printer, so there won’t be enough handouts for all participants.  Even worse, there may be a spelling error in the presentation, which no one will point out (Remember, advisors are supportive!), but nevertheless will be embarrassing.
  • Avoid the “Now What?”  NACADA conferences feature a vast array of presentation topics, but the one thing advisors want from every session they attend is the answer to this question: “How can I apply this to my institution, my students, and my practice?”  If advisors are presenting a program that was successfully implemented, don’t stop at just describing what the program was and how it was implemented.  Take some time to discuss the components that will be easy to implement in other settings and the components that will be challenging to apply.  I have been to a number of sessions that don’t discuss the application component, and those are where I hear advisors saying, “This is awesome, but how do I take it to my institution?”
  • Leave Time for Discussion. One important component of any presentation is time for discussion, not only at the end of the session, but throughout it.  Having two group discussions during the presentation not only keeps participants engaged, but it also is a good time to rest and collect thoughts for the next part.  Instead of having to talk for 50 minutes straight, presenters could talk for three blocks of 15 minutes.  It makes a positive difference.
  • Don’t Read the Slides.  Slides are there for the audience to read and get a summary of the discussion, not for the presenters to read.  Sure, presenters can refer to them when they are reading a long quote, or a phrase that they just can’t seem to memorize, but the less dependent they are on their slides, the more successful their session.  Presenters will be more engaging, and it won’t be a disaster if the PowerPoint is not working or the projector shuts off.
  • Don’t Dwell on Low Evaluations.  The hardest part of a presentation is reading low evaluations.  Everyone is going to present a great topic, and the majority of participants will respond with positive comments, as advisors are just that supportive.  However, there will always be one person who did not get what he or she was looking for, or did not like the presentation style, and presenters need to be okay with that.  No session is perfect.  When I present, I am high-energy and a little sarcastic at times, and I do like flair.  It was a bit hard for me to read one evaluation that said I was over the top and a little ridiculous.  There were 80 evaluations that indicated participants loved my session, but I was not focusing as much on those. The positive comments are the most instructive and while that one negative evaluation might provide a great insight for presenters in the future, don’t dwell on it.  Presenters should celebrate their fantastic sessions!

Three Goals

  • Walk Around the Room.  This seems like a very small thing to do, but it makes a big impact.  Even presenters who are uncomfortable speaking in front of people should try to get out from behind the podium and interact with the audience if possible.  Walking among participants not only engages them, but it engages presenters more with them.  The distance between participants and presenters is shortened when they when they leave the podium or PowerPoint and walk around the audience.  Buy a clicker, or to ask a colleague to advance the slides.   Everyone will enjoy the session more.
  • Publish the Presentation!  If advisors have met NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt, they have already heard this message, and this is only a reminder.  Publish the presentation!  NACADA has three great venues to share thoughts not only with session participants, but with the entire organization: the NACADA Journal, Academic Advising Today, and the Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.  One of those three will be a great place to share ideas, and presenters will have already done the majority of the work by writing the proposal and creating the presentation.  My challenge is to write the first draft of the article within three months of the presentation.  That is the hardest part, and it gets easier from that point until the presenter sees his or her article featured in a NACADA publication.
  • Next Time, Present Alone.  Once members have successfully presented their first NACADA session, celebrate!  It’s a great achievement, especially if they are not natural public speakers.  They just challenged themselves to do something they might not have been comfortable with at first. Advisors looking toward the next opportunity should submit a proposal again and fly solo this time (and congratulations to those who already have!). Those who gained confidence initially by presenting with a partner should strive to present alone within a year after that first session; advisors who do will feel more confident in themselves and excited that they accomplished this challenge.

I hope these tips and goals are helpful to advisors as they present at this year’s and any future NACADA events.  Good luck, and congratulations again!

Kyle W. Ross
Retention Specialist/Academic Advisor
Academic Success Center
Eastern Washington University


Vantage Point.jpgAssessment is the Key

Lory L. King, NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute Scholarship Recipient 

Lory King.jpgWhen thinking about the word “assessment”, many advisors may shy away from the idea or concept because of its mere relationship with numbers. As advisors, we like to think about how to use student development theories and various academic advising models to best help our students to be successful. However, after attending the 2014 NACADA Assessment of Academic Advising Institute, I now understand that assessment is an integral part of the puzzle that connects what we do in our role as academic advisors. When we assess our departments, our students, and ourselves at our institutions, we are getting at the crux of the matter and opening ourselves up to a new conversation.

While working at Ball State University for six years as an academic advisor, I was afforded the opportunity annually to attend the NACADA Annual Conference, which helped me to develop my philosophy of academic advising. However, in December 2013, I began my new position as the research coordinator (who also has an advisor role) for the College of Arts and Sciences, Advising and Student Services department at the University of Louisville.  My supervisor, Tomarra Adams, who was also one of the faculty for the 2014 Assessment of Academic Advising Institute, urged me to apply for the Assessment Institute Scholarship. Thankfully, I was awarded one of the six scholarships, which offset the costs for our department and allowed me to attend this eye-opening Institute.

As I reflect on my time at the Institute held in February 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I remember it as a time of continuous mental stimulation. We had several plenary sessions which introduced various steps of the assessment process, but also allowed us to engage with the entire faculty who were the assessment leaders of the Institute. Something else that many of us found extremely helpful was that by working daily in our small groups, we were able to practice as we learned.

I was in one of the foundational-level working groups led by Jennifer Joslin, one of the excellent faculty members, and she truly wanted each of us to grow in our own learning of the assessment process. She shared many tips on how to understand the process and gave us all a clearer understanding of how to develop goals and student learning outcomes for our respective institutions. We not only had nightly homework, but also were able to share our ideas with each other in our small groups. As beginners, we found it helpful to hear from Jennifer as well as to learn from others who represented various institutions. What types of mission statements did they have at their institutions? What were their student learning outcomes? What were their goals? All of these questions came up throughout our working group sessions. As a first-time Institute attendee and someone who was new to my position at the time,  I was more than interested in learning all that I could about this process.

I also came to realize through our plenary sessions as well as our small group sessions that assessment is an ongoing and systematic process that oftentimes lengthy, but worthwhile. Another facet of the process that echoed throughout the Institute was that assessment should fit the values and mission of the institution. Lastly, and I feel most importantly, I learned that assessment is a process of improvement. If we do not act upon what we learn from our assessment, then what was the point? Departments that assess properly can have great outcomes for their students, colleges, and universities.

What I would most like to share with those who have not had the opportunity to attend the Institute is that if there is funding available, it would be a benefit for as many advisors who can attend to do so.  Assessment and research are both becoming more important in the work that we do. In order to justify our work to both students and administrators, we must be able to show accurate data. This reflects the great work that we do with and for our students through academic advising.

Assessment is paramount not in just defining what we do, but in helping us to become better advisors for our students. Once we know the issues and assess them properly, we can create advising and student services that have a greater impact on our students.   We are already implementing some of what was learned at the Institute to create better advising practices at our institution. I wish I could personally thank each faculty member for all that I learned through this Institute.

Lory L. King
Research Coordinator
University of Louisville


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