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Raquel Fong, Jenna Kahl, Erica Mitchell, Connie Pangrazi, and Elizabeth Rosenkrantz, Arizona State University

Recruit, retain, and return are three words that help drive strategic actions for student services professionals.  The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University developed a Student Centric Continuum that spans the life cycle of the student experience beginning at the phase of recruitment continuing through to after graduation.  This continuum model has increased freshmen retention by 6% (from Fall 2012 to Fall 2013) and sophomore retention by 2%.

This continuum consists of four parts which include Recruitment, Advising, Retention, and Alumni Relations, placing the student at the heart of the experience.  Within each part of the continuum, students engage in four stages that lead to their holistic development and success.  This model is a student driven approach which allows students to be advocates for their own education by providing opportunities for leadership, research, innovation, and discovery.  Students engaged at every stage of the continuum have proven to persist to graduation at a higher rate and ultimately strengthen their affinity with the college to create connected alumni.

Recruitment Continuum

Recruitment, the first step in the continuum, is a vital starting point for the development of the student experience and has four distinct stages.  Campus based experiences, as surveyed by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s 2013 National Norms survey (Eagan, Lozano, Hurtado, & Case, 2013), ranks the importance of a campus visit at the top with other factors such as cost and academic reputation.  This is one of the main pillars of the recruitment continuum.  Through the development of unique experiences and interactions within each of the four phases, students develop college affinity, a sense of belonging, and build strategies for success.

  1. Explore:  The focus is on early outreach and exposure (elementary/middle school) through campus-based field trip experiences, university-wide community engagement, signature events such as homecoming, and admissions outreach events to all prospect levels.
  2. Experience:  The focus is early high school engagement through large scale on-campus events, summer residential camps, and a deep partnership to plan and host events in conjunction with high school groups such as the Future Educators of Arizona.
  3. Prepare:  By engaging juniors and seniors in high school, campus visit experiences are more focused on the beginning of the application process and partnership with university admissions.  Students engage in continued participation in college/career focused events, summer experiences, and programs that lead to dual credit opportunities.
  4. Commit:  In the final semester of high school and the summer before the student’s college freshman year, the on-campus engagement aspect centers on providing high quality, personalized, and timely interactions.  These interactions focus on building college affinity, yielding high achieving students, and providing resources, connections, and opportunities to engage with the student where they are in the decision process.

Advising Continuum

The purpose of academic advising is to help students grow personally and become lifelong learners (Chickering, 1994).  To accomplish this task, the advising continuum was created as a student-learning centered paradigm (Lowestein, 2005), consisting of four stages.  In this paradigm, students play an active role in their development and learning while the advisor provides tools and guides students through the four stages.

  1. Foundation:  Advisor provides students with tools for academic success and sets expectations of student-advisor relationship.  The relationship leads to meaningful dialogue and developmental tasks for personal growth and to help students discover purpose in academic pursuits (Crookston, 1994).
  2. Application:  Advisor facilitates dialogue to demonstrate the progression and interrelationship of ideas (Lowenstein, 2005) as students begin the use of tools to make meaning and apply knowledge.  For example, advisors use the major map tool to outline courses for major, engage students in a dialogue to explain the purpose of courses, and demonstrate how to create a schedule. 
  3. Feedback:  Advisor ensures student mastery of the first two stages and provides feedback to correct misconceptions, misapplication, and fill in gaps of knowledge.  Students begin to think critically, problem solve, make decisions, and develop evaluation skills and behavior awareness (Hemwall & Trachte, 1999).
  4. Reflection:  Advisor engages student in conversations about purpose and meaning of their academic pursuits, which results in critical self-reflection and self-transformation (Hemwall & Trachte, 1999).  Students self-reflect, holistically understand their personal development, and have a deeper connection to their coursework. 

Retention Continuum

From admissions to graduation, students experience four stages in the retention and engagement continuum.  Koring (2005) believes mentoring programs promote development of educational autonomy by engaging students in their own learning, personalizing their experience, and helping them become active in the campus community.  The Teachers College utilizes Student Ambassadors to assist students through each stage to maximize retention efforts and ensure student success.  Ambassadors serve as the core of the retention continuum and work in tandem with the advising continuum.  

  1. Inclusive:  Ambassadors are transparent and readily available to support students by serving office hours for increased student access and connection.  Furthermore, Ambassadors host events to promote students’ connection with advisors, peers, and professors in addition to an affinity for their major and college.
  2. Personalize:  Ambassadors establish connections with students from orientation to graduation by assisting students in their specific major.  Ambassadors schedule and meet one-on-one with students to provide information regarding clubs and organizations and other college resources. 
  3. Collaborative:  Ambassadors are paired with an advisor to discuss student issues and student support.  Furthermore, advisors and faculty refer students to Ambassadors to assist with peer support follow up.  Also, this partnership is an opportunity for Ambassadors to gain professional experience and mentoring from advisors. 
  4. Responsive:  Ambassadors are available Monday through Friday to support students and assist with any student concerns.  Ambassadors will respond to referrals within 24 business hours.  Ambassadors respond asynchronously and synchronously through varied mediums (email, phone call, in-person), depending on the preference and need of each student. 

Alumni Continuum

The alumni continuum, although a separate and final piece of the student centric continuum, runs parallel and concurrently with the recruitment, advising, and retention continuums.

Alumni have a pivotal role in the success of the college.  Official alumni status is acknowledged at a Certification Celebration shortly after graduation and once final grades are posted.  At this event, graduates are invited to obtain their official state certification from the Arizona Department of Education and are encouraged to self-select to be involved in alumni events and opportunities.  As alumni progress through the four stages, they have myriad opportunities to be involved with the college in the manner that best meets their needs.

  1. Explore:  Graduates attend a certification celebration event after graduation to obtain their teaching certificate.  Engaged alumni are given swag and are provided information regarding graduate school and other educational and career opportunities to increase affinity for college.
  2. Experience:  Recent graduates are communicated with regarding involvement opportunities and Teachers College events.  For example, alumni are invited to homecoming and an alumni dinner every spring to engage with current Teachers College students to share their experiences and wisdom.  Furthermore, alumni are connected through quarterly college update reports on recent innovations and research. 
  3. Prepare:  Through extensive opportunities to stay connected to the college and university, new professionals have the opportunity to assist in the development of future teachers by mentoring current Teachers College students.  Furthermore, alumni receive communication to further their education in graduate school and their connection to the Teachers College. 
  4. Commit:  There are numerous opportunities for alumni to become donors to show their support to the college and university.  Alumni also have the opportunity to be part of the Advisory Council, which gives them the opportunity to play an active role in the Teachers College and ASU. 

Thus, alumni are involved in every aspect of the college continuum from recruitment of future professionals, to retention events involving current students and pre-service teachers, to their own professional growth and development.

The continuum model began as a pilot in the Teachers College in 2012 and has proven to increase retention and strengthen relationships with our alumni.  The most essential ingredients to success of the continuum are collaboration among student services professionals, engaging students immediately from the start of the continuum by setting clear expectations, and having critical conversations and developing successful relationships which foster holistic development of the student.  These ingredients create purpose and increase investment in the institution and degree program, ultimately positively impacting retention, graduation, and affinity.   

Raquel Fong
Academic Success Coordinator
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
[email protected]

Jenna Kahl
Director of Recruitment
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
[email protected]

Erica Mitchell
Senior Director of Student Services
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
[email protected]

Connie Pangrazi
Assistant Dean and Senior Lecturer
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
[email protected]

Elizabeth Rosenkrantz
Program Manager
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University
[email protected]

Mitchell, Pangrazi, Kahl, Youngdale, Fong.jpg


Chickering, A. W. (1994). Empowering lifelong development. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 50-53.

Crookston, B.B. (1994). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 5-9.

Eagan, K., Lozano, J. B., Hurtado, S., & Case, M. H. (2013). The American freshman: National norms fall 2013. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.

Hemwall, M.K. & Trachte, K.C. (1999). Learning at the core: Toward a new understanding of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 19(1), 5-11.

Koring, H. (2005). Peer advising: A win-win initiative. Academic Advising Today, 28(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Peer-Advising-A-Win-Win-Initiative.aspx

Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65-73.


Cite this article using APA style as: Fong, R., Kahl, J., Mitchell, E., Pangrazi, C., & Rosenkrantz, E. (2015, March). The student centric continuum: Recruit, retain, and return. Academic Advising Today, 38(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2015 March 38:1


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