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Marita Labedz Poll, NACADA Assessment Institute Scholarship recipient

Marita Labedz Poll.jpgMy first job in higher education was as an academic advisor.  I was a graduate student and was delighted to have the opportunity to learn in my courses and on the job working with students who had been admitted to a bridge program during the summer before their first year.  I enjoyed helping students, not much younger than me, navigate their courses, connect with faculty, and establish their lives at the university.  It was an exceptional introduction into the work of supporting student development.  After graduate school, I worked mostly in student affairs, occasionally taking on the role of academic advisor when I was teaching a first-year studies course.  After taking some time away from a full time role in higher education to support my own children’s student development, I accepted a new but familiar role with a unique opportunity to develop a new advising model.

The Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University had spent a year studying traditional faculty advisors and professional staff advisors and was in a position to examine this a bit further.  I was hired as the first professional staff academic advisor, charged with the task of not only advising a portion of the students in our department, but also assessing the success, nature, and outcomes of advising our students.

Assessment is not a new concept to any of us who work in higher education; we all have to demonstrate our ability to impact.  However, assessment specifically designed for academic advising was something I needed to master, and quickly.  I turned to NACADA and began to pour through the rich resources available online and learned about the Assessment Institute.  The timing was perfect, and as I became familiar with the Institute offerings, I was convinced this would be an important professional development experience that would provide me with the tools and resources necessary to successfully advance my work.

I found the pre-institute preparation to be extremely helpful in that it outlined very specifically what I needed to bring with me to allow for maximum benefit.  Pre-institute introductions to the working groups helped me to frame my needs, establish my position in the assessment process, and develop a plan to come away with as much information as possible.  It was helpful to know that I could spend as much time as needed in each working group and move from one group to another depending on my interest, level of program development, and needs.

Bringing key pieces of information to the institute such as vision, goals, and objectives, as well as student learning outcomes and advisor outcomes, provided the opportunity to connect with Institute faculty during the working groups to develop a plan during the Institute.  This completely set the Institute apart from previous workshops and meetings I have attended in that I was able to carefully construct an assessment plan, informed by my department’s mission and objectives and guided by the faculty, while I attended the Institute.  It was tremendously encouraging to learn from faculty and fellow advisors in the work groups, and in the end, have a plan to share with my colleagues as I returned to my campus.

The plenary and concurrent sessions provided a comprehensive overview of assessment.  Starting with the purpose of assessment and including stakeholder buy-in, institutional expectations, NACADA tools and resources, as well as student and advisor learning outcomes, the sessions provided a road map for development and further discussion in the work groups.  Sessions also covered specific topics such as the use of focus groups and the development and implementation of an advising syllabus.  The Institute workbook includes information and resources from every session, so even though I could not attend every concurrent session, I was able to access materials from the sessions.

As I reflect on my experience at the Institute, I am struck by the practical and immediate application of my learning.  An assessment plan that provides a clear way forward to gather and apply what we as advisors know and want to know about our work with students is an authentic outcome.  The Institute provides an unmatched opportunity to develop, implement, and further advance an advisor’s assessment efforts.  Now that the first phase of assessment has been completed and we have constructed our assessment framework for the Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences Department at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, I hope to return to the institute in the future to further develop and refine our efforts.

Marita Labedz Poll, Ed.D.
Academic Advisor
Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences
McCormick School of Engineering
Northwestern University


Cite this article using APA style as: Labedz Poll, M. (2018, September). The foundation of advising: REAL outcomes at the NACADA assessment institute 2018. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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