A Guide to Restructuring Advising Services
Authored By: Marsha Miller
original publication date - 2003 (Links updated in 2017)
There are few things more daunting than being told that you will chair the institution's effort to restructure academic advising. You will find that expectations vary across campus from those who want to keep the current system, to those who expect the implementation of major structural changes yesterday! Everyone has an opinion and many will want you to listen and act on their particular one. I speak from experience.
In a former position, I was appointed to chair a group charged with revamping the college's academic advising system. The next 2 ½ years were daunting, but we survived and our efforts were rewarded. Not only did student satisfaction increase, so did student retention. We were honored when the advising program we created was selected to receive the NACADA Outstanding Advising Program award and the Noel-Levitz citation for Retention Excellence. Still, fulfilling our charge was not easy; we made mistakes and took detours, but we persevered. Based upon what we learned, I would make the following suggestions to those charged with revamping their advising services.
First, I would suggest that you make sure you have the support of the chief administrative office on your campus. Real change is not likely unless you have their backing. Then look at your committee. (If you don't have a committee, form one! This is not a one-person operation.) Without exceeding 12 members, (a necessity for logistics purposes), make sure that all campus constituencies are represented. If your committee's recommendations are to be viewed as unbiased, then you must include students, faculty, staff, and administration from different sides of the restructuring issue.
The first task on the committee's agenda should be discussing how to approach the the task. Start with this NACADA resource - factors to consider when restructuring academic advising.
Next, look carefully at what services are needed by students. Survey your students and faculty; find out what they think. Are their needs being met with the current system? If not, what are each group's top three priorities for change?
Research various advising program structure models using the Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources that provide data regarding each model's use. Your group should discuss the various models and decide which model (or combination of models) best addresses your campus needs. Once you have chosen a possible model, decide what advisors will be needed (faculty, staff, peer advisors, or a combination thereof).
Seek out others who have revamped their campus advising programs. Check the awards section of the NACADA website looking at the programs in all of the categories. It's a good bet that you will find a program similar to the one your group would like to implement. When you find a program that is close to your ideal, search the institution's site and contact the program director.
Post questions on a NACADA listserv; individuals on these lists can direct you to other programs utilizing a system close to your ideal.
Look at the Clearinghouse's retention resources. Note the link to the Ruffalo Noel-Levitz database of award-winning retention programs. Contact these programs. Also in the Clearinghouse, find the link to ACT retention rates by institutional types. You will want to refer to these when making any retention comparisons.
Read the three books in the NACADA/Jossey-Bass Advisor Core Resource Library. Some see these three books the 'bible' of academic advising.
Attend NACADA state or regional meetings.We made some of our most productive contacts at our regional conference by simply telling people what we were doing and asking who had an outstanding program. Talk with program directors and visit programs near you. Take two or three committee members with you to visit programs; nothing helps committee members understand possibilities better than seeing for themselves.
Consider the NACADA Consultants and Speakers Service. Consultants provide personal, and reasonably priced, assistance to colleges and universities reviewing and reorganizing advising services. In addition, the Bureau can supply a speaker who will come to your campus and address your specific needs.
Last, but most certainly not least,one of the most valuable resources for those restructuring advising, is the NACADA Academic Advising Summer Institute (SI). The week-long Institute provides high-quality general sessions, concurrent topical workshops, and daily small group discussions. Participants leave with a customized plan of action for their campus advising services. Unfortunately, we did not discover SI until we were almost through the process. We would have saved over a year's worth of work if we'd only gone to Summer Institute in the first place. It's that valuable.
Good luck in improving advising on your campus. It can be a difficult task but one that is certainly worth doing. The efforts will make a world of difference for your students.
NACADA Assistant Director, Resources & Services
Read More About It! Resources dealing with this issue
Anttonen, R.G. & White, M. M. (2010). The Advocates Skill Set: Lessons Learned for Building, Maintaining, or Restructuring Advising Programs in Lean Budget Times in Academic Advising Today 33 (2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Advocates-Skill-Set-Lessons-Learned-for-Building-Maintaining-or-Restructuring-Advising-Programs-in-Lean-Budget-Times.aspx
- Excellent discussion that includes strategies for navigating the political waters of an institution.
Crockett, D.S. (1988). Recommendations. In Advising Skills, Techniques and Resources: A compilation of materials related to the organization and delivery of advising services. (pp. 857-8). ACT: Iowa City, IA.
- This list of 51 considerations includes management of advising, advising policy, evaluation, advisor contact and load, delivery of advising services, recognition and reward of advisors, advisor training and development, advising information system and selection of advisors. This list was posted on my wall during our restructure project.
Epithelium, Herta, "Changing the campus environment," NACADA Journal, 14(1): 32-37.
- Good overview of the campus change process through the eyes of an academic advisor. The author presents a method for proposing and implement campus innovation along with a case study from her campus. Note: you may order this article if you do not have access to this NACADA Journal issue through a library on your campus.
Freeman, L.C. (2008). Establishing Effective Advising Practices to Influence Student Learning and Success. Peer Review 10 (1): 12-14.
Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R.& Grites, T.J. (2008) Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook , second edition
. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Kramer, Harold C., "The advising coordinator
: Managing from a one-down position," NACADA Journal,
- A classic. The author effectively summarizes the relationship dilemmas faced by advising coordinators trying to make changes from a 'middle management' position.
Kramer, Howard C., "Advising: Small wins in institutional development," NACADA Journal, 5(1): 39-43.
- Another classic. Includes strategy for 'small wins' that can address larger problems.
Miller, M.A. (2004). Factors to Consider when Restructuring Academic Advising. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources http://nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/116/article.aspx
- Based on my experiences using Crockett's 1988 list of 51 considerations (see above), this condensed list of 16 factors organizes the restructure while taking into account such 21st century issues as assessing your students' needs, determining advisor & advisee responsibilities in advising, the role of Internet, and student learning outcomes.
Pardee, C.F. (2004).Organizational Structures for Advising. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:http://nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/627/article.aspx
- Good overview of the various structures used to deliver advising services.
Cite using APA style as:
Miller, M.A. (2003). A guide to restructuring advising services. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: