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Voices of the Global Community


Cindy Iten, Advising Administration Commission Chair
Adrienne McMahanAdvising Administration Commission Member

Is it time for a ‘program review’ of your academic advising unit? Would an evaluation by external reviewers be just what is needed to jump-start significant changes in an advising program?

A fresh perspective on the situations we see day-in and day-out can help us assess practical matters such as routine processes, forms, procedures, staffing, and physical arrangements. An external review can help us more closely align our efforts with institutional strategic plans and provide the evidence needed for additional resource allocation.

Why conduct a program review?

The generally accepted purpose of any academic program review is to ensure the continuous improvement of the unit as it relates to the institution’s goals, mission, and strategic indicators. More specifically, an advising center is charged with meeting the needs of a diverse student population through various forms and processes of advising and through numerous administrative actions. How efficient and effective is our unit? Are students receiving the assistance they need? How high is their satisfaction? Can we measure our effectiveness with students? Are advisors within the advising program professionally trained at the level of expertise needed? Is there a plan in place for continuous professional development? These are but a few questions answerable in a program review.

How is a program review conducted?

The program review for the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Center at the University of Kentucky began with gathering historical data, an explanation of the organizational structure, and a self-analysis of the unit’s strengths and weaknesses. We assessed the work climate, consequences of current policies and procedures, effects of the physical environment, impact of leadership changes, and qualitative evaluations from students and parents who attended the freshman orientation. This “self study” was submitted to the Dean of the College and then ultimately was distributed to the review committee as a starting point for their evaluation.

The Dean then appointed a review committee composed of one on-campus faculty member, one advising administrator from another on-campus unit, and two advising administrators from benchmark institutions; one of the external reviewers served as chair. The composition of a review committee may vary according to the needs of the review and mission of the advising unit. Plans were then made for the review committee to spend two full days on campus, in the college, reviewing documents, conducting interviews, touring facilities, and in private discussion. A conference room was dedicated to their use with lunch delivered. Travel and accommodation arrangements were made by the Dean’s administrative staff.

In his initial meeting with the review team, the Dean charged this committee with evaluating unit effectiveness, purpose and goals, and strengths and weaknesses, as well as identifying areas of concern. To do this, they conducted extensive interviews and focus groups composed of internal staff, students, faculty advisors, alumni, and campus-wide student service professionals outside the A&S Advising Center. They reviewed various surveys and institutional reports such as enrollment trends and degrees awarded. The committee again met with the Dean at the end of their two day stay in the college.

From the interviews and the ‘self study’, the review team evaluated the Advising Center’s performance as it related to its purpose and goals, identified obstacles impeding performance, appraised budget effectiveness, and described the relationship between the Dean’s office, his staff, and the Advising Center. A final report was written by the committee chair, approved by other committee members, and presented to the Dean.

How to use the results?

Advising Center staff members were offered the opportunity to identify errors and submit clarifications as needed within the report. The staff and the Dean discussed the recommendations of the review committee and then the staff submitted a detailed response to the Dean, who provided a timeframe for initiating and implementing chosen recommendations. An annual review of the recommendations and their effect on the continuous improvement of the Advising Center will become a standard component in the unit’s annual “Goals and Accomplishments” as required by the Dean.

With confirmation from the most recent program review, the Dean initiated discussions with the staff of the Advising Center and the University administration to totally redesign the advising model in the College of Arts and Sciences. The Provost and the Deanfunded ten new advisors to join the eight already in place; four advisors were assigned to work solely with the first year students and fourteen were assigned to specific academic programs. Having enough professional advisors to adequately cover all students in the College of Arts and Sciences was always seen as the ideal situation, but it took a program review to move the process forward.

While not all program reviews result in such dramatic changes, a program review report can help identify areas for improvement, areas for celebration, and new initiatives which will enhance academic advising service to students. A program review can assist in aligning advising program goals with the institution’s strategic plan and ultimately to the resources invested in that plan. A program review helps everyone in the unit establish a foundation for developing new plans and practices, for developing a timetable of needed resources and for supporting current practice. It is a team endeavor that can assist in developing more open lines of communication or enhance those already established.

Cindy Iten
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Kentucky
[email protected]

Adrienne McMahan
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Kentucky
[email protected]

For further reading:

Find 17 institutional assessments of advising or program review reports at the NACADA Institutional Projects and Reports on Assessment of Advising Web site http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Commissions/C32/C32-Resources-AssessmentProjects.htm

Program Review Process for Kansas State University: https://www.k-state.edu/pa/programreview/undergrad.html

NACADA Institutional Assessment and Evaluation Program Web sites: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Commissions/C32/GeneralAssessment-InstitutionalWebSites.htm

Articles related to Advising Assessment can be found at this Web site:http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Commissions/C32/C32-AssessmentReferences-Articles.htm

Banta, T.R., Jansen, Michele J., Black, Karen E. & Jackson, Julia E. (2002). Assessing Advising Outcomes. NACADA Journal, 22(1), 5-14.

Creamer, E.G., & Scott, D.W. (2000). Assessing individual advisor effectiveness. In V.N. Gordon & W.R. Habley (Eds.), Academic Advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fielstein, L.L. & Lammers, W.J. (1992). The relationship of student satisfaction with advising to administrative support for advising services. NACADA Journal, 12 (1), 15-21.

Frost, S.H. (1991). Academic advising for student success: A system of shared responsiblity. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.3. The George Washington School of Education and Human Development, Washington, DC.

Lynch, M. (2000). Assessing the effectiveness of the advising program. In V.N. Gordon & W.R. Habley (Eds.), Academic Advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

White, E.R. (2000). Developing Mission, Goals and Objectives for the Advising Program. In V.N. Gordon & W.R. Habley (Eds.), Academic Advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cite this article using APA style as: Iten, C. & McMahan, A. (2007, September). The 'who,what,when,how and why' of a program review. Academic Advising Today, 30(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.